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Children with Mental Health Disabilities Met with Challenges as they Age

Children with mental health issues in Pennsylvania face a variety of challenges as they age, including difficulties finding state and federal assistance, as well as proper healthcare.

These issues and more are being addressed today and Thursday by State Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) at his second annual Children and Youth Disability and Mental Health Summit.

“Anybody, in my opinion, who are dealing with disabilities in mental health, cannot be satisfied by what we are seeing from our state and federal government now,” Miller said.

Healthcare can be a big concern for those with mental health issues aging into adulthood, specifically, a lack of inpatient beds.

According to Miller, when hospitals run out of room, they look to others throughout the state, but if the healthcare facilities are unresponsive, a patient runs the risk of being sent home.

“If nobody answers, that person is waiting for hours and hours, if not a day or two at an emergency room, often loses patience, time and everything else,” Miller said. “They go home until the next emergency comes up and they get right back to where they were.”

Last May, Miller introduced a bill that would create an online database of available inpatient beds.

“Our mental health bed registry bill would make a real time service so that you can go on a computer, find a spot and get it done.”

The bill had bipartisan support from dozens of sponsors, but failed to move out of the House Human Services Committee.

Miller also criticized the state’s waiver program designed to assist young adults with mental health disabilities pay for housing and other expenses.

Of the 200,000 Pennsylvanians living with a mental health issue, roughly 4,000 are on the emergency needs waivers waitlist, while another 6,000 are on the critical needs waitlist.

“That’s 10,000 Pennsylvanians right now whose families are doing the best they can to try and increase their independence, increase their opportunity and help them enjoy life, but are sitting there, often on a thin thread,” Miller said.

According to MedicaidWaiver.org, it takes seven years or more for someone on the waitlist to receive services in Pennsylvania. More than 62,000 Pennsylvanians currently have waiver assistance.

But the state is working to cut down on the growing waitlists. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2015-2016 budget includes $45.9 million to expand waiver services in the state. And, an additional $19.3 million would go toward providing home and community-based services to 1,050 people with intellectual disabilities and autism.