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How Philadelphia’s Behavioral Health Economy Generates $4 Billion

April 14, 2015 Category: Funding

Can behavioral health services be good for the economy? The Scattergood Foundation, a Philadelphia-based grantmaking organization working toward advances in the behavioral field, has proven they are in a new report released last month.

According to the report, the $1.12 billion spent by the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services generates a total economic impact of nearly $4 billion for Philadelphia. Behavioral health spending, which represents 17 percent of the city’s budget, creates and supports a total of 25,400 jobs and produces more than $36.1 million in annual tax revenues to the city.

The report is the first time that the Scattergood Foundation, which teamed up with the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation at Drexel University to conduct the research, has quantified the impact of behavioral health services in economic terms.

“It really dawned on me that we never [have] kind of taken the perspective of, ‘How big is the behavioral health economy and what jobs does it create?’” said Joe Pyle, president of the Scattergood Foundation.

“Not to put the services secondary, but just for a minute, let’s talk about how big and robust the economy is for behavioral health care,” he added.

The report also states that every $1 spent by the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services results in an additional $2.50 in economic activity, meaning that behavioral health yields a significant return on investment, Pyle said.

But getting the public to show interest in the subject of behavioral health is more challenging.

“We’re always trying to get more people to be part of the behavioral health conversation, but it’s tough,” Pyle acknowledged. “People don’t want to pay attention because there’s a lot of prejudice and stigma that comes up when you talk about behavioral health.”

Twenty-six percent of Americans have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, according to the report.

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The Scattergood Foundation has plans to release the report on an annual basis and encourages similar analyses from a range of health and human services sectors in the city.

“This report just looks at a very thin slice of behavioral health. It’s one department,” Pyle emphasized.

The Foundation has also taken steps to educate the mayoral candidates on behavioral health issues. It has hosted one-on-one discussions with each of the candidates and helped to organize a Health and Human Services Mayoral Forum last week.

“We want the next mayor to understand that he or she will need to really understand the impact that behavioral health and human services has on their term,” Pyle said.

Image via Scattergood Foundation

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