Although there were a number of inaccuracies in the Feb. 13 Perspectives piece "Improve Human Services in Pennsylvania" by Robert Nelkin, president of United Way of Allegheny County, the public should know that the Department of Public Welfare is actively engaged with the stakeholder community and is committed to improving human service delivery.
In addition to reducing the waiting list for services for those with intellectual disabilities in last year's budget, Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed a strong human services budget for 2013-14. It includes a continued commitment to reduce waiting lists, with $21 million from lottery funds that would allow 1,500 additional older Pennsylvanians to receive services at home and more than $40 million to serve those living with intellectual and physical disabilities. Additionally, it sets aside more than $8 million to expand health care coverage for children by increasing awareness and enrollments in the Children's Health Insurance Program.
However, I also must point out a number of inaccuracies contained in Mr. Nelkin's article:
• The goal of our recent reforms to the aging waiver is to increase a senior's choice of who can coordinate their care. It means more provider choice, not less.
• Contrary to Mr. Nelkin's assertions, there has been a 9 percent increase in the number of older Pennsylvanians receiving home- and community-based services during this administration. Services available for people in the programs have not changed, nor has the frequency with which the services can be delivered.
• Pennsylvania continues to be a national leader in mental health services, spending an estimated $300 per capita compared to the national average of $120.56 on behavioral health services.
While difficult, the reforms we've initiated over the last few years -- which have been far from "random program slashing" -- have provided us with the ability and the funds to focus on helping us serve our neediest citizens, which we are committed to doing now and into the future.
Office of Long Term Living
Department of Public Welfare