CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Cumberland County is the fastest-growing county in the state, but while its population booms, mental health funding has not kept up. County commissioners are now facing a hefty deficit and may have to cut services.
They have not made any cuts yet, and the county’s mental health director said she hopes it won’t come to that.
“We have seen a 10 percent increase of people seeking mental health services,” mental health director Annie Strite said.
However, while demand keeps growing, funding is not.
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“Counties haven’t seen an increase in more than a decade,” Strite said.
Strite said the lack of funding has had major consequences. The county is struggling to meet the demand for services and is racking up a growing deficit.
In 2022, the county saw a $700,000 deficit in mental health funding. This year, it is expected to be $2.5 million. Strite said state resources proposed in the budget are not looking good either.
“We’re very concerned that Governor Shapiro’s $20 million is likely not enough,” she said.
The county government is trying to tackle that deficit.
“The commissioners had asked what would be the ripple effect if they were to implement the $2.5 million dollars in cuts to balance our budget,” Strite explained.
She asked commissioners to hold off on making any cuts just yet.
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“It will ultimately negatively impact the community as a whole,” she said.
Strite hopes state lawmakers will take another look at mental health funding and give counties a desperately needed boost.
“We need sustainable funding, long term,” she said. “If we can do a better job meeting the needs, the emotional needs of our community, that will automatically have a positive impact on every facet of a person’s life.”
The county is scheduling town halls to get the word out about the lack of funding. Strite hopes that encourages people to reach out to their lawmakers and ask for more. The next town hall meeting is on April 19.