Human services block grant will aid Centre County

BELLEFONTE — A human services block grant plan is going to make a big difference in Centre County.

At Tuesday’s Centre County commissioners’ meeting, human services coordinator Natalie Corman talked in-depth about the 2019-2020 human services block grant plan. The plan outlines services and spending for providers in the mental health, intellectual disabilities, drug and alcohol and adult services programs.

“We’ve been in the block grant since 2012-2013,” Corman explained, “and have been able to improve the flexibility of our funding because of being in the block grant.”

In addition to sustaining all of the current services the county offers, Corman said there will be some positive changes.

“We’ve expanded services to include mobile medication, mobile psychiatric rehabilitation. Both of those are making sure that we meet the needs of some of the rural communities and some of the needs that have been expressed to us. We’ve increased funding to crisis intervention and we’ve increased funding to some of our supportive housing programs,” Corman said.

Additionally, Corman said, the county is providing more services for those struggling with opioid addiction, case management as well as expanding youth services.

“We are doing some partnerships with Penn State University for intellectual disabilities; for individuals seeking some post-secondary education,” Corman said.

The total amount of the block grant $6,630,587. That amount is funded as follows: State ($5,807,791) and county ($255,796) for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

According to Corman, there is a great deal of thought put into the services the county offers.

“We receive public comment — both written and testimony at our public hearings. We’ve taken that into account. You’ll find that the public comment is put into our plan,” Corman noted. “I think really for the 2019-20 year, there will be further opportunities to see what else we can explore based on some of the comments we’ve been receiving.”

Corman said that a total of 34 counties in the Commonwealth participate in the block grant.

“I think we’ve been involved since the inception,” said commissioner Steve Dershem. “One of the things that people should know is the fact that it does provide the flexibility of all your shops to be able move dollars around depending on the need. You have an idea at the beginning of the year what the progress and the process will be, but it’s really throughout the course of the year where you can see where those dollars are being spent.”

According to Corman, having flexibility pays huge dividends.

“We are able to move funding to meet that need. I think that flexibility is really helpful,” she said.

Commissioner Mark Higgins commended Corman and her staff for their efforts with the block grant.

“Thanks to everyone in your departments for working hard together to spend the $6 million as effectively as possible,” he said.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said that the benefits of the block grant are immeasurable.

“This is the eighth block grant plan you’ve put together. It feels like it’s flown by,” Pipe said. “But the countless lives that have been effected by it … that’s what the services are all about.”

A total of 15,040 individuals have taken advantage of Centre County human services thanks in part to the block grant.