Murt Chairs Hearing on Mental Illness in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG-- Rep. Tom Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia) chaired a hearing of the House Human Services Committee examining the issue of mental health in the Commonwealth. 

Rep. Tom Murt chairs a hearing of the House Human Services Committee examining the issue of mental health in the Commonwealth.
“The public has a misconception that they are more likely to be harmed by someone with a mental illness when the truth is those suffering an intellectual disability are far more likely to be a victim of crime,” Murt said. 

Murt, who is a member of the Human Services Committee, requested the hearing following the shootings at Newtown, Conn., which were committed by a man who was treated for a mental illness before he attacked children and school personnel at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

“It is critical that we understand the extent of this challenge so we can effectively treat those with mental illness to prevent a similar tragedy in Pennsylvania,” Murt said.  “But it’s just as important that we make sure those with a mental disability are protected from those who would do them harm.” 

Dennis Marion, head of the state’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Welfare, testified that one in four Pennsylvanians suffers some form of mental illness.  “Families and communities are the frontline defense” in helping people recover, he said.  The challenge, he added, was making sure these families are aware of the resources available to them. 

Arthur C. Evans, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, testified that two-thirds of those suffering with mental will recover.  The key to success is helping people recover in their communities. 

“We also need to have funding flexibility to support those services people need beyond treatment,” Evans said, citing services such as peer counseling to help people return to society. “We need more money for early intervention and in teaching families how to intervene and recognize the signs of mental illness and get people into treatment.”  

“The need for community support structure has increased” as state institutions have closed, said Jim Jordan, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.  He argued that while the counties have taken responsibility for those with mental illnesses, the state needs to standardize services to make sure everyone is receiving the best care possible.  

Jim MacMillan, of Gun Crisis Reporting Project, warned that fewer than 5 percent of those who commit gun violence gun violence in Philadelphia are mentally ill.  “Perpetuating the stereotypes of mental illness” will not lead to a solution, he said. 

“This was immensely helpful in improving our understanding of the challenges we face,” Murt said.  “It’s clear we must do more to help streamline services and make sure we fully fund programs that work.” 

Representative Thomas P. Murt
152nd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
267.207.0207 /
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