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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: November 1, 2021 11:00 AM
From: Representative Kristine C. Howard
To: All House members
Subject: BWELL: Ensuring Mental Health Care
Recruiting and retaining behavioral health workers, especially for residential treatment facilities, presents a serious challenge. Behavioral health workers often cite issues such as insufficient training, having high caseloads but low compensation, lack of opportunities for advancement, and lack of proper mentoring and recognition as to reasons why they have left jobs in the behavioral health field. The ultimate outcome of this is a lack of access to mental and behavioral health services for those in need.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) project a shortage of more than 10,000 behavioral health workers across the nation by the year 2025, including psychiatrists, mental health and substance abuse social workers, school counselors, and more.
To ensure this shortage doesn’t further impact Pennsylvania, I am introducing legislation to create the Behavior Welfare Educational Loan Lenience (BWELL) Program. Under the BWELL program, students working towards a degree in any behavioral health field (social work, psychology, nursing, etc.) may be eligible for payment awards covering a substantial portion of their student loans if they agree to be employed at a residential treatment facility for a period of up to four years. The payments increase with each year an individual remains employed at the residential treatment facility, enabling adequate staffing in both entry-level and more specialized roles.
Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation to recruit, retain, and show continuous support for our behavioral health workers in Pennsylvania, and help keep our residential treatment facilities adequately staffed, thereby ensuring the emotional wellbeing of Pennsylvanians.

Introduced as HB2091