PMHCC Programs

The Pennsylvania Psychiatric Leadership Council

"There is a need for us to think about psychiatry differently than we have been over the past twenty years and create a vision for its transformation."

Wesley Sowers, M.D.
President, AACP

Visit the PAPLC website


Given the need to provide high quality services to the public sector, the challenges to psychiatric practice in Pennsylvania are well-known. These challenges include:

  • finding ways to bring psychiatric services to rural and underserved areas due to recruitment and retention difficulties
  • providing integrated and effective care in response to highly complex interacting social and medical needs of persons in recovery in the community - this may be a greater challenge by the rising cultural diversity of these communities
  • finding ways to respond effectively to consumer and family voices advocating for empowerment and recovery
  • providing services within an increasingly complex health care system with its emphasis on multidisciplinary care and managed care as well as within a fiscal environment which continues to be highly resource-sensitive
  • improving ways to integrate the rapid expansion of knowledge technology and evidence-based care into the training and continuing education of psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners.

The Pennsylvania Public Psychiatry Council was formed in April 2005 to provide a voice for Public Psychiatry in Pennsylvania, a focus for the collaborative resolution of these psychiatry issues, and leadership in transforming the practice of public psychiatry in Pennsylvania.

Through these efforts, we strive to improve community services, treatment, and recovery efforts to individuals with mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders.  More recently we hope to aide in the integration of behavioral and physical health care to persons in recovery to reduce the disparity in quality and length of life span compared to the general population.

The Council has met three to four times per year since June 2005. The people involved have included:

  • Community Psychiatrist from all parts of the Commonwealth.
  • Behavioral Health Providers.
  • County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities and Human Services Administrators
  • Pennsylvania APA
  • Representatives of Pennsylvania Colleges and Universities
  • Representatives of Consumers and Families
  • Commonwealth Legislators
  • Department of Public Welfare and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) staff
  • County Commissioners
  • Foundations
  • Health Maintenance and Management Organizations
  • Area Health Education Centers

Staffing and Administration of Council

Initially, activities and work of the Council was staffed, part-time, by FTAC - a Program that is part of PMHCC, Inc., and a consultant and originally funded by an OMHSAS grant. More recently our activities have been partially supported by grants from interested community stakeholders, including those involved in Behavioral Health Managed Care to the Medical Assistance recipient.

Council Vision and Activities

The Council also works closely with and supports the American Association of Community Psychiatrists (AACP) and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society to develop a vision for strengthening psychiatry’s role in a trans-disciplinary approach to practice. The goal of this effort is to support recovery in individuals, families and communities while struggling for social change and health equity.

The Council focuses on several major areas, with recent activity including:

• Research on benzodiazepine prescribing practices and development of appropriate, patient responsive policies. A Psychiatric Fellow at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) developed a survey which is being completed by psychiatrists and pharmacists statewide through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association. The initiative grew out of a discussion with the fellows at a PPLC meeting and could well have significant implications to assist the practitioner in prescribing these potentially addictive medications in a safe manner for those who need them over the short term.We’ve been joined by the PA chapter of the AACP in this effort, with that organization now taking the lead in working with other interested groups to deliver the finished product.

• Recognizing that public service psychiatry is not ranked high for many 4th year residents contemplating their career track, we have begun to reach out to potential candidates in mid Atlantic medical schools. Last fall the first and very successful session was held, organized by WPIC and reaching nearly 20 interested candidates. A second conference is being contemplated in the near future for Philadelphia.

• The Family Education Committee has directly addressed the issue of how psychiatrists could support families and significant people. The committee, with the able assistance of practitioners and academicians in the Southeastern portion of Pennsylvania, has developed a document entitled: "Family Inclusion Competencies for Community Psychiatrists." This paper, which we hope will soon evolve into an OMHSAS bulletin, is also a guide for our fellowship program as well as residency programs across the Commonwealth.  The paper was presented to the OMHSAS Advisory Committee in the early part of 2011.

• Our periodic statewide meetings of the PPLC also encourage dialogue on public service psychiatric practice and cutting edge issues in part, because of the broad mix of participants. Just over the past two years the group has explored: how tele-psychiatry expands the access to clinical experience for rural Pennsylvania practitioners; issues facing psychiatrists in several models of integrated behavioral and physical health care; how to measure how clinical services support recovery; treating the dually diagnosed person with mental health and intellectual disabilities issues and others.

The heart of the program has been the work taking place in Centers of Excellence based in academic centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. One of the most successful Centers had been in Erie, but, due to financing and other issues, we are now looking to re-establish that Center into one designed to address the special issues of rural psychiatry.These Centers essentially support the newly minted psychiatrist with an additional year of residency which is directed at developing increased competence in serving the seriously mentally ill, publicly supported Consumer. In addition, the Fellow is further schooled in recognizing the need for and learning methods of public advocacy for that sector of Persons in Recovery.

After years of public psychiatry being neglected by our academic medical centers, the state's support is facilitating the re-establishment of public service community psychiatry in these institutions across the commonwealth. These efforts are beginning to bear fruit, including a series of meetings with community service psychiatry providers throughout the Commonwealth. These new efforts constitute a significant platform, not only to engage psychiatrists in community and public service, but to also reshape the practice of psychiatry to support recovery. Without the PPLC and the Centers of Excellence it is hard to imagine how any of these objectives could be achieved.

The two very active centers are at University of Pittsburgh at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC). Please contact Robert Marin, MD at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Wesley E. Sowers, MD at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The other is at University of Pennsylvania.

Assisting in Psychiatric Recruitment in Rural/Underserved Areas. Staff associated with the PPLC are actively engaged in establishing, with the able assistance of Planners in the PA Department of Health, in establishing certain rural areas as Healthcare Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA’s) in order to gain special tuition reimbursements for psychiatrists who enter service in those areas in agencies primarily serving the public patient.

Explore and Expand the Role of the Public Psychiatrist in Advocating for Improved Services for the Publicly Funded Consumer: Community Psychiatrists have long recognized their increased responsibilities in advocating for their often voice-less Seriously Mentally Ill Consumer population in the public arena. The PPLC will frame these debates and forge positions among its membership and encourage that membership to impress upon local, Commonwealth, and Federal Officials the need to recognize and properly offer service to the Persons in Recovery whom we are dedicated to serve.