Harrisburg, December 7, 2012 – At Senator-elect Sean Wiley’s (D-Erie) request, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee will hold a roundtable discussion in Erie next week on the state Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) controversial new reimbursement rates for regional providers of services to people with intellectual disabilities.

The panel will also discuss the impact of the state’s 10 percent budget cuts to county human service programs; and seek local input on DPW’s decision to replace the state’s 37 financial management service vendors with one firm, based in Massachusetts.

The public is welcome to attend the discussion, which is scheduled for December 13 at 10 a.m. at the Barber National Institute, 136 East Avenue, Erie.

“This reimbursement rate reduction of up to 17 percent could have a catastrophic impact on local providers and recipients of these crucial disability services in our community,” Wiley said. “I am pleased that the Policy Committee is focusing additional attention on why this happened and how it can be rectified.”

Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe), who chairs the committee, added, “The Erie providers were largely shut out of discussions on the criteria DPW used to establish these new broader regional rates.

“My former colleague, Senator Jane Earll, had already begun working on this issue. I am pleased that Senator-elect Wiley is picking up the ball and continuing to press DPW for answers.”

Boscola said it is imperative that the discussion focus on protecting limited resources for disabled people, their families and the community.

In July, a new DPW policy took effect, reclassifying and bundling Erie County in with numerous rural counties across the state. The new formula, which includes a calculation that averages wage data throughout these regions, resulted in the huge reimbursement rate drop in Erie.

Wiley said he is outraged that those who provide the very same services in other parts of the commonwealth now receive a 13 percent higher reimbursement rate than their Erie counterparts.

“During my Senate campaign, numerous people told me how concerned and outraged they were over how these new rates were set — and how faulty and secretive DPW was in developing its formula,” Wiley said. “Next week’s discussion will enable local providers and recipients to amplify their ideas and concerns to several senators representing diverse communities throughout Pennsylvania.”

Boscola said many counties have struggled to maintain human service programs such as mental health, intellectual disabilities, child welfare, behavioral health, and home assistance following the 10 percent funding cut this year. Gov. Tom Corbett originally proposed a 20 percent cut.

“While Senate Democrats support sensible streamlining and greater efficiencies, we have to get a sense of how much these cuts are hurting real people who desperately need these services,” Boscola said.

She added that DPW selected Public Consulting Group’s Public Partnerships, LLC (PPL) as Pennsylvania’s sole financial management services provider, beginning in January. Boscola noted that while the move to an out-of state provider may provide more uniformity, she questioned their level of service and commitment to Pennsylvanians, as well as DPW’s reasoning for replacing Pennsylvania firms that currently provide such services.

In addition to committee members, those expected to take part in the informal roundtable discussion include:

  • Shari Gross, Erie County Director of Human Services;
  • Erie County Executive Barry Grossman;
  • Attorney Charles R. Barber, chief administrative officer, Erie County Care Management;
  • John Barber, CEO, Barber National Institute;
  • Bill Harriger, CFO, Erie Homes for Children & Adults;
  • Bill Grove, Mental Health Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania;
  • Tim Finegan, executive director, Community Resources for Independence; and
  • Tanya Teglo, who has cerebral palsy.

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