The Corbett administration’s push to expand the current block-grant pilot program to fund county social services will have a chilling effect on those receiving mental-health, intellectual-disability and substance-use services.
Expansion of the pilot program reflects a “ready, fire, aim” mentality. A real pilot program would include an independent and well-planned methodology for evaluating whether it was successful. This has not happened. Despite the program being in place for only a matter of months, the administration wants to expand it from 20 to as many as 40 or 50 counties. Where are the outcomes of the current pilot?
This urgency to expand this unproven program reveals the true nature of the block grants — to cut funding. The governor’s original block-grant proposal was contingent on a 20-percent funding cut, later reduced to 10 percent by the General Assembly.
Affording counties flexibility can only stretch a dollar so far. Programs will be cut, by definition, and people will be hurt. Only the loudest and those with political sway will survive, while those without a voice will see services disappear.
The goals of flexibility and better integration of programs and services are laudable, but without a considered plan of action that utilizes the input of all stakeholders, there is no assurance that the block grants will meet these goals. It is not possible to determine success with no data and a few months of practice.
The writer is executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association (paproviders.org).