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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: March 6, 2023 01:15 PM
From: Representative Joe Ciresi
To: All House members
Subject: Supporting the Child Mental Health Workforce
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health system struggled with underfunding, provider and staffing shortages, and insufficient programs and access. The pandemic exacerbated this problem by increasing demand even more, and this high demand for services ran into major problems in recruitment, retention, and burnout for mental health professionals. The result has been longer waitlists, reduced services, and worse access.
In 2019, House Resolution 193 was adopted by the General Assembly to direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study of the shortage of mental health care professionals in Pennsylvania. The commission reported that Pennsylvania has a below-average number of mental health care providers per capita, and the trend is only continuing. The commission recommended greater financial assistance for mental health professionals to reduce the cost barrier of higher education and attract more individuals to the field.
The worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health specifically led the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association to declare a national emergency in children’s mental health in 2021, and a U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory warned of “alarming increases in the prevalence of certain mental health challenges” for young people.
To ensure that Pennsylvania children and teenagers have the support they need in dealing with this growing issue, we need to support recruitment and retention for child mental health professionals. Please join me in co-sponsoring these bills to help reverse these concerning trends, support our mental health workforce, and ensure that help is there when it is needed.

Document #1

Introduced as HB725

Description: Mental Health Professional Student Loan Forgiveness
This legislation would establish a student loan forgiveness program specifically for students seeking undergraduate or master’s degrees in the fields of psychology, counseling, social work, human services work, psychiatry, and nursing. In order to be eligible, students must graduate from one of the universities that are part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in one of the aforementioned fields, with a minimum B average grade, and agree to work in a mental health related profession focusing on early childhood through adolescence. It is important to provide special support to mental health professionals that dedicate their career to ensuring our young people are given the support they need early on in life so that they can live long, happy lives. 

Document #2

Introduced as HB726

Description: Mental Health Workforce Retention Program
This legislation would support retention of existing mental health professionals by establishing the Mental Health Workforce Retention Program. The program would allow mental health professionals, specifically professionals working in the psychology, counseling, social work, and human services fields focusing on adolescents for at least seven years, to participate in a lottery in which winners receive a $5,000 bonus. The lottery would distribute bonuses to winners every year for five years to stabilize the child mental health workforce in Pennsylvania.