Shapiro Administration Establishes Behavioral Health Council

On October 10, 2023, Governor Josh Shapiro signed an Executive Order establishing a Behavioral Health Council for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Council is aimed at breaking down the “silos” that exist across state and local agencies, healthcare providers, and insurers in order to address gaps in access, affordability, and delivery of mental health and substance use disorder services. As the need for behavioral health services increases, and communities across Pennsylvania face mounting challenges in accessing the care they need, the creation of the Council reflects the need for cross-sector collaboration and a more holistic healthcare delivery system.

Mental health and substance use disorders are a growing concern among Pennsylvanians of all ages, and the current system of care is not meeting the growing demand for integrated and accessible care. The Council aims to identify new and innovative care delivery models, address workforce challenges and related social needs and inequities, and facilitate collaboration between the criminal justice system, public safety networks, and public health organizations to treat the whole person.

Led by Dr. Christina Finello, the Council will be comprised of 33 individuals, including those with lived experience, members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate, addiction specialists, and representatives from the Departments of Aging, Agriculture, Corrections, Drugs and Alcohol Programs, Education, Health, Human Services, Labor & Industry, Policy and Planning, and State.

The Council will be supported by an Advisory Committee who will serve as community liaisons to the Council and provide industry knowledge, expertise, reports, findings, and feedback from the communities they serve.  The Advisory Committee will be comprised of no more than 25 members and will include representatives from specified organizations such as the Juvenile Court Judges Commission, Medicaid managed care plans, County Commissioners, Office of Victim Advocate, and many others. Qualified individuals interested in being appointed to the Council or the Advisory Committee can apply by completing the Council Interest Form and/or the Advisory Committee Interest Form.

PHLP looks forward to supporting continued efforts to improve access to behavioral health resources. PHLP has been working to build capacity around behavioral health access, particularly for children. This September, Hilary Pearsall joined PHLP as an Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow whose project focuses on supporting children with behavioral health needs accessing necessary services through Pennsylvania’s Medicaid programs.