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Behavioral Health Orgs 12 Wage a Challenge without Funding Boost / Public News Service

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget proposal, which includes raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by July.

Child behavioral health agencies warn that increasing wages without more funding could affect the quality of care.

Pennsylvania agencies are paid at a pre-determined reimbursement rate controlled by the state Department of Human Services and counties.

Samea Kim – vice president of legal and public affairs at the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services – said providers support a higher minimum wage, but feel it’s not financially feasible without also raising reimbursement rates.

“At a really difficult time,” said Kim, “when there’s already reductions in services, when there’s already workforce challenges especially in the human services field, it’s likely to have a really significant impact on providers’ ability to recruit and retain a really high -quality and high-functioning workforce.”

The current state minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

A Wolf administration spokesperson says many workers in the social-services field already are earning close to or more than $12 an hour.

He adds that rates paid by DHS for services will be set with the costs of the minimum-wage increase in consideration and that layoffs by social-service providers are not expected.

Beth Endy is the director of human resources at at Bethany Children’s Home, a Berks County residential facility for young people experiencing behavioral health challenges.

Endy said there’s been a discussion about exempting human services from a minimum wage increase – and she worries that it would lead to more people leaving the field for better pay.

“If a staff can go to a different type of industry, which a lot of times is less draining and make more than they do here, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Endy. “They’re going to leave. They’re going to go to another type of industry in order to meet their needs and their family’s needs, financially.”

Endy said to retain workers dealing with burnout during the pandemic, her organization increased starting pay to a range of $16 to $19 an hour for direct support professionals.

Disclosure: Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children’s Issues, Education, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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