Authors Posts by Melissa Dehoff

Melissa Dehoff

Melissa Dehoff is responsible for all medical rehabilitation and brain injury service issues. Ms. Dehoff attends multiple state-level meetings to advocate on behalf of members on brain injury and rehabilitation issues and is a member of the Department of Health Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Board.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have developed the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP). This program is designed to directly support COVID-19 readiness and response in long-term residential care facilities, including long-term care nursing facilities, personal care homes, and assisted living residences. The program also provides assistance to other DHS-licensed facilities, Adult Living Centers and State Veterans Homes. In addition, the program was developed to improve infection prevention and facilitate continuity of care and other services provided by long-term care facilities in a manner that mitigates risk of spread of COVID-19 to staff and residents.

The RRHCP is a collaboration between DHS and nine regional health collaboratives consisting of health care systems and academic medical centers. The RRHCP is divided into six regions, with a health collaborative responsible for all or a portion of the long-term care facility census in each region which includes:

  • Southeast Region:
    1. Thomas Jefferson University in partnership with Mainline Health and Lehigh Valley Health Network
    2. University of Pennsylvania in partnership with Temple University Hospital, Inc.
  • Northeast Region:
    1. Geisinger Clinic
    2. Lehigh Valley Hospital, Inc.
  • Southcentral Region:
    1. The Pennsylvania State University
  • Northcentral Region:
    1. Geisinger Clinic
  • Southwest Region:
    1. UPMC Community Provider Services in partnership with Allegheny Health Network, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania
  • Northwest Region:
    1. LECOM Health
    2. UPMC Community Provider Services in partnership with Allegheny Health Network, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania

The RRHCP will provide operational and administrative support to protect residents in long-term care facilities from COVID-19.  It will help facilities implement best practices in infection control, implement contact tracing programs in facilities, support clinical care through on-site and telemedicine services, provide remote monitoring and consultation with physicians, and enhance testing capability for both individuals in care and staff at facilities.

The RRHCP will also assist in identifying alternate care arrangements for hospitalized COVID-19 patients until they are considered no longer infectious and can return to their long-term care residential facilities. Services and assistance offered by the RRHCP include, but are not limited to:

  • Establishing a call center with 24/7 access for providers to access clinical consultation and technical assistance;
  • Assisting with universal testing;
  • Providing expertise in infection control;
  • Deploying rapid response teams in case of emergency in conjunction with DOH, DHS and PEMA;
  • Assessing the facility’s capability and capacity to prevent and to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak, including review of policies and procedures to prevent introduction of COVID-19 into the facility, fundamental infection control practices, and its readiness to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19;
  • Assisting facilities with ensuring hazard response plans are in place;
  • Reviewing the process for behavioral health assessments;
  • Providing emergency preparedness for personal protective equipment assessment and coordination;
  • Establishing a statewide educational support resource for providers to have access to state and national resources;
  • Assisting providers with staff augmentation when needed;
  • Working with DOH and DHS to conduct contact tracing;
  • Assisting providers in developing and implementing plans for alternate care settings for residents if outbreaks of COVID-19 occur at their facility; and
  • Providing software and technical support to facilities to support two-way communication between residents and their families.

The RRHCP is based on the Educational Support and Clinical Coaching Program (ESCCP), a learning network that provided technical assistance and educational support to long-term care facilities in light of the current pandemic.

An introductory webinar has been scheduled for Friday, July 24, 2020 from 9:00 am – 10:00 am. The webinar, “Support for Long-Term Care Nursing Homes, Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities, is open to all provider types and all members are encouraged to participate to learn more about this program. The webinar information is provided below:

Login: Webex Link
Password: DHS2020
Call-in: 1-844-621-3956
Event Number and Access Code: 145 274 9024

Please contact this email for DOH questions or use this email for DHS questions.

On July 20, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the United States (U.S) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a guidance bulletin, “Civil Rights Protections Prohibiting Race, Color, and National Origin Discrimination During COVID-19,” to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance understand that they must comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during COVID-19.

To help ensure Title VI compliance during the COVID-19 public health emergency, recipients of federal financial assistance, including state and local agencies, hospitals, and other health care providers, should:

  • Adopt policies to prevent and address harassment or other unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
  • Ensure – when site selection is determined by a recipient of federal financial assistance from HHS – that Community-Based Testing Sites and Alternate Care Sites are accessible to racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Confirm that existing policies and procedures with respect to COVID-19 related services (including testing) do not exclude or otherwise deny persons on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
  • Ensure that individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups are not subjected to excessive wait times, rejected for hospital admissions, or denied access to intensive care units compared to similarly situated non-minority individuals.
  • Provide, if part of the program or services offered by the recipient, ambulance service, non-emergency medical transportation, and home health services to all neighborhoods within the recipient’s service area, without regard to race, color, or national origin.
  • Appoint or select individuals to participate as members of a planning or advisory body which is an integral part of the recipient’s program, without exclusions on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
  • Assign staff, including physicians, nurses, and volunteer caregivers, without regard to race, color, or national origin. Recipients should not honor a patient’s request for a same-race physician, nurse, or volunteer caregiver.
  • Assign beds and rooms, without regard to race, color, or national origin.
  • Make available to patients, beneficiaries, and customers information on how the recipient does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will conduct their next Community HealthChoices (CHC) Third Thursday webinar on July 16, 2020 from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm. During this webinar, OLTL’s Deputy Secretary, Jamie Buchenauer, will be providing updates on COVID-19. To participate in the webinar, registration is required. Once registered, an email will be sent that contains the information about joining the webinar.

Questions about the webinar should be directed to the OLTL Bureau of Policy Development and Communications Management at 717-857-3280.

The next Managed Long-Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) Subcommittee meeting will be held on August 5, 2020 from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm via remote streaming. Members interested in participating in the meeting must register in advance. After registering, members will receive a confirmation email that will contain the information about joining the webinar.

Remote captioning and streaming services will be provided. If you require these services, please use this remote captioning and streaming services link.

The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) recently issued bulletin 17-20-02, “Employment and Employment Related Services,” that shares Pennsylvania’s “Employment First” policy to the Community HealthChoices (CHC) Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) and Service Coordination Entities (SCEs), and updates the obligations of and the resources available under this policy. This bulletin specifically notes the changes to the CHC and OBRA waivers which allow employment and employment-related services to be authorized through the waivers when the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation has a closed order of selection or has not made an eligibility determination within 120 days. The revisions reflecting these changes are detailed in the Procedures section of the Bulletin.

OLTL also included a document, “Guidance on Conversations about Employment for OLTL Participants,” for additional information.

This bulletin rescinds OLTL’s Bulletin 59-16-07, “Employment and Employment Related Services,” issued on July 26, 2016, and any other OLTL policy documents or parts of policy documents that are inconsistent with this bulletin’s contents.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report, “Trends in Emergency Department Visits for Contact Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Children – United States, 2001–2018,” that shows the rate of emergency department (ED) visits among children for contact sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) decreased 32 percent from 2012 to 2018. This decrease is notable after more than a decade of increasing rates. The CDC attributes this reduction due to a 39 percent decline in the rate of football-related TBI ED visits from 2013–2018 (which had previously increased more than 200 percent from 2001 to 2013. This decrease was likely due to a decrease in participation in tackle football, the implementation of contact limitations, and the use of tackling techniques to reduce concussions. Even with this reduction in TBIs, football remains the sport with the highest incidence of sports and recreation-related TBIs.

Some additional key findings noted in this report include:

  • Between 2001 and 2018, there were over 3.8 million ED visits for sports- and recreation-related TBIs among children under 18 years old. Contact sports accounted for approximately 41 percent of these ED visits.
  • Football had the highest rate of TBI ED visits in 2018 for contact sports, with basketball and soccer following. TBI ED visits from basketball and soccer did not show a significant decline over the study period.
  • The rate of contact sports-related TBIs declined among both sexes, with a 31 percent decrease among males from 2012 to 2018 and a 38 percent decrease among females from 2014 to 2018.
  • The rate of ED visits from TBIs in non-contact sports (for example, playground activities and bicycling) declined 24 percent from 2011 to 2018.

These findings highlight the continued need to expand efforts to prevent football-related TBIs among children and call attention to the need to identify effective prevention strategies for other contact sports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging will host a Virtual Community Conversation on July 7, 2020, from Noon to 1:30 pm to discuss their State Plan on Aging for 2020–2024. During this virtual meeting, feedback is encouraged from the public and community stakeholders. The State Plan on Aging is designed to help Pennsylvania meet the objectives of the Older Americans Act and will be submitted to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) containing a vision and direction for Pennsylvania’s network of aging services. This plan is required to be submitted every four years, with this next plan due by October 1, 2020.

Individuals interested in participating can be an observer only or can make comments for up to two minutes on aging issues that are important to them. Questions can also be submitted on aging-related topics in advance and have them answered during the discussion by registering online.

Registration is required to participate via WebEx. If you choose to participate by phone, you must still register through the link to obtain your Attendee ID.

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has announced that referrals are now being taken for the new Acquired Brain Injury Program (ABIP).

The ABIP will provide outpatient/day program or home- and community- based rehabilitation services. If eligible, an individual may receive up to $50,000 or a years’ worth of rehab services. The application will be a two-step process similar to the Head Injury Program (HIP) consisting of the application process and an assessment process.

In order to be eligible in the application process, an individual must complete the application forms, be 18 to 21 years old, have verification of an acquired brain injury (non-traumatic), be a Pennsylvania resident, and be within the income guidelines. For 2020 applicants, the ABIP will look at income from 2019. The income limit, which is based on 300 percent of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, for one person is $37,470. Please be advised that only the applicant’s income will be considered.

The second phase of the application process will be conducted by our participating providers. Through an assessment, the ABIP providers will determine if the individual will benefit from rehabilitation and develop a service plan.

Participating providers for the ABIP are:

  • Acadia Acquisitions, Inc.
  • Moss Rehab
  • NeuroRestorative PA
  • ReMed Recovery Care Center
  • Success Rehabilitation, Inc.

In order to make a referral or for any questions regarding the program, please call the Brain Injury Helpline at 866-412-4755 or 717-772-2763. You may also email questions or referrals via email or fax to 717-265-7366.

If you have any questions, please contact Amy Deiderick.