Schlossberg, McNeill introduce legislation to address shortage of available mental health services

HARRISBURG, June 15 -- Seeking a bipartisan solution to a growing need, state Reps. Mike Schlossberg and Jeanne McNeill, both D-Lehigh, have joined with state Reps. Rosemary M. Brown, R-Monroe/Pike, and Jason Ortitay, R-Washington/Allegheny, to introduce legislation aimed at addressing the shortage of mental health services in underserved areas.

“Mental illness doesn’t care how you vote,” Schlossberg said. “It doesn’t matter your age, race or gender. Nor does mental illness care where you live, work or learn. The truth is mental illness can impact anyone at any time. And now, as we look at the impacts of isolation and other factors related to the COVID pandemic, there’s a marked increase in the number of Pennsylvanians facing mental health issues who are unable to access mental health services.”

The legislation would establish and administer a program providing funds for postdoctoral psychology internship placements in federally designated underserved areas -- both urban and rural -- throughout Pennsylvania.

According to Schlossberg, the program would not only expand access to mental health services and support to underserved communities, but also provide an opportunity to better train and retain psychologists in Pennsylvania.

Schlossberg, who has long been an advocate for mental health issues, cited a recent CDC report on the effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of adults that revealed the share of adults experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5% between August 2020 and February 2021. This was accompanied by an increase from 9.2% to 11.7% of adults reporting that their mental health care needs went unmet due to lack of access to services.

“Even prior to the pandemic, more than half of Pennsylvanians living with mental illness reported having not received any treatment,” McNeill said. “It’s alarmingly apparent that the commonwealth has a serious problem with regard to how we handle this issue. Clearly, this legislation is long overdue and needed to improve the lives of those who need it most, especially those in our most underserved areas.”