Squirrel Hill Health Center to use federal grant to expand services

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HARRISBURG —The Squirrel Hill Health Center plans to use a new federal grant to expand its provision of counseling and other behavioral health services.

The health center is one of seven in Pennsylvania to receive $250,000 in federal funding to establish or expand behavioral health services.

The Squirrel Hill Health Center, which serves about 5,000 people each year, will add 40 hours each week of direct clinical behavioral health services, said CEO Susan Friedberg Kalson. It currently has a psychiatrist on-site about eight hours per week and a half-time licensed clinical social worker.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has promoted integrating behavioral health services with primary care, she said.

“The goal is to really see each individual as a whole person and understand that issues relating to mind and body are often intertwined,” Ms. Kalson said. “And that if you can provide care for both in one place, it’s easier for the patient and it leads to better outcomes.”

In a letter supporting the grant application, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, wrote that integrating behavioral and physical care can lead to significantly better outcomes.

“It’s extremely important to make that investment in the mental health area,” Mr. Murphy, a psychologist, said in a phone interview. “America’s mental health system is woefully underfunded, and this is a valuable resource.”

His legislation on mental health issues would increase access for such services at community health centers, he said.

The state Department of Public Welfare announced the grant Friday, along with equal awards to health centers in Philadelphia, Reading, Pottstown, New Kensington and Kennett Square.

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com.

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