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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: December 4, 2012 11:48 AM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Mental Health Services for Military Personnel and Family
I am reintroducing Senate Bill 1256, legislation amending the Volunteer Health Services Act to expand it to include mental health services provided to military personnel and their families.

A constituent who is a retired board certified psychiatrist became aware of a nonprofit organization known as Give an Hour, which has created a network of about 1,200 mental health professionals nationwide who literally give an hour of their time each week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families regardless of income. Under this model, a mental health professional would receive referrals from Give an Hour and provide services at a site that is likely outside a clinic setting (i.e., library, community center, church).

In attempting to apply for a volunteer license under the Volunteer Health Services Act to provide mental health services via Give an Hour, my constituent was informed by the State Board of Medicine that the Act does not allow the issuance of a volunteer license for such volunteer work. Currently, the Act allows a retired health care provider to provide free primary health care services to low-income individuals inside an approved clinic. However, the Act would not apply to a retired health care provider who wishes to provide free mental health care services to military personnel or their families outside a clinic setting.

This legislation would create a separate chapter in the Act to allow psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors the ability to obtain a mental health volunteer license through their appropriate licensing board so that they may provide free mental health services to military personnel and their loved ones. Licensed volunteers may provide such services upon referral from an approved organization (i.e., Give an Hour). An “Approved organization” is a non-profit organization as defined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code whose purpose is to refer US military personnel and their families, regardless of income and who are in need of mental health services, to licensed volunteers who provide mental health services, whether such services are provided inside or outside a clinic setting. The term “mental health services” includes marital and family therapy, substance abuse counseling, and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The measure also requires a person who holds a mental health volunteer license to furnish each client with a written explanation of the exemptions from civil liability provided for under the Act.

Providing for the establishment of a mental health volunteer license will enable mental health professionals to offer complimentary and confidential services to returning troops and their loved ones who have sacrificed for our country.

Introduced as SB81