Rapp Supports Adoption of Comprehensive Mental Health Laws Study
5/15/2013
HARRISBURG — Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) voted in support of a resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study of all aspects of Pennsylvania’s mental health system and associated laws. The Pennsylvania House unanimously adopted House Resolution 226 on Tuesday.

“Conducting this study is long overdue, especially considering that Pennsylvania’s current Mental Health Procedures Act which governs the state’s regulations and procedures relating to the mental health treatment of inmates is more than 35 years old,” said Rapp. “With such antiquated and inadequate regulations, it is little wonder that our state and county correctional facilities are extremely overcrowded and the state is incarcerating tens of thousands inmates with a mental health diagnosis. I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner with my legislative colleagues, Pennsylvania Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth and Corrections Secretary John Wetzel to protect Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens from winding up incarcerated simply because there is no place to receive the mental health treatment they desperately need.”

According to recent estimates by the state Department of Corrections, an estimated 40 percent of female inmates and 20 percent of male inmates suffer from a form of serious mental illness. Per House Resolution 226, the Joint State Government Commission is required to present its findings to the Legislature within one year.

In addition to voting in favor of House Resolution 226 yesterday, Rapp and the resolution’s prime sponsor, House Minority Judiciary Committee Chairman Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks) met with both Mackereth and Wetzel to more fully discuss the undeniable connection between mental illness and crime and agreed to have further conversations.

Secretary Mackereth also expressed her willingness to visit Warren State Hospital for a second time in the near future. Last month, at Rapp’s request, Mackereth visited Warren State Hospital to assess the facility’s capacity to handle additional patients and look for ways to maximize its use in caring for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens. Also considered in this discussion was the potential utilization of the hospital grounds and buildings for alternative treatments other than incarceration.



“I invited the secretary to visit the facility and see first-hand that there is an opportunity to serve more patients,” Rapp said. “We want to make sure that as many patients as possible receive the care they need instead of falling through the cracks or, even worse, committing a crime and ending up in our prison system.”

The Commonwealth has established a 196-bed cap at Warren State Hospital. Rapp said the facility can handle more patients, which would relieve pressure on county budgets and the criminal justice system that often serves as a backstop for patients who go untreated.

“If we treat patients at facilities like Warren State Hospital where the proper care is available, we don’t have to worry about them landing in prison, which represents significantly increased taxpayer costs and is not the optimal place for treatment,” Rapp said. “Moving forward, it is my hope that the comprehensive study authorized by this resolution will give us even more facts to address this critical issue impacting not only our criminal justice and health care systems, but our entire economy.”

For the latest legislative updates, visit RepRapp.com.

Representative Kathy Rapp
65th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Ty McCauslin
717.772.9979
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