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Grant Helps More Pennsylvanians Receive Mental Health Services

One in four people live with some form of mental illness in the United States, according to the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania.

But Health and Human Services announced recently that seven health centers in the commonwealth will receive a total of $1,750,000 in Affordable Care Act funding.

This will be used to establish or expand behavioral health services for more than 20,900 people in the commonwealth.

The Squirrel Hill Health Center was one of the seven clinics that received $250,000.

“We have had part-time providers and a half-time licensed clinical social worker and a part-time psychiatrist, and they provide behavioral health assessments and treatment for individuals who are our primary care patients,” Susan Friedberg Kalson, CEO, said. “This funding is going to help us increase the staff and increase our services to our patients.”

She said the grant requires them to hire at least one additional full-time equivalent behavioral health clinician.

“In our model, it’s actually going to be probably several people, we hope, increasing the hours of the folks who are there already and also potentially bringing some new people on so that there will be the equivalent of one more full-time clinician, therapist and/or psychiatrist,” Kalson said.

The health center had about 15,500 face-to-face clinical encounters – or appointments – with about 4,800 patients in 2013, according to Kalson.

She said they provide services to everyone even if they don’t have health insurance or simply can’t afford it.

“We’re really about increasing access to care and lowering barriers to care,” Kalson said. “And there’s a tremendous shortage of behavioral health services in our region but (also) throughout the country, so these grants are designed to try and increase access – especially for people who are vulnerable because they may be Medicaid insured or lack insurance entirely.”

The center accepts Medicaid, Medicare and commercial insurance.

According to Kalson, the grant will also help them continue to care for a large portion of their patients who are refugees and immigrants.

“A lot of people who have refugee status have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other complex needs and often don’t speak English,” Kalson said. “So providing for those needs is another challenge and the funding will help us expand our programming to try and better serve those patients as well as our English speaking patients.”

Other awardees include the Community Health Clinic, Inc. in New Kensington and Esperanza Health Center, Inc. and Public Health Management Corporation in Philadelphia.