Authors Posts by Sarah Eyster

Sarah Eyster

Ms. Eyster represents the association at state-level meetings and serves as staff liaison to the Mental Health Committee. She is responsible for member communication of, and the analysis of, Department of Human Services and other key policy decisions.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), PA Care Partnership, and Youth MOVE PA, are excited to kick off Virtual Mental Health Awareness Week 2020.

The celebration for the recovery and resiliency of mental health will be held this week, starting today, May 18, 2020.  For full details on the events, visit

Offered are various training opportunities related to mental health and Systems of Care, which are available to the public.

There will be speakers on mental health, including the topics of youth and young adults, parents and families, cultural and linguistic competency, systems of care; and, several related areas of advocacy.

There are a number of resources for you to use and share.

All the speakers will be pre-recorded, and we will send an email blast as well as post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram the day they are posted.

See below or attached for the schedule of events.  Today, we there are two live events for youth this afternoon.
Better Together Strength in Numbers
VIRTUAL: Mental Health Awareness 2020
Monday, May 18, through Friday, May 22, 2020

Event Schedule: Week of May 18, 2020
Welcome to Mental Health Awareness 2020

Monday, May 18, 2020
9 am: Jen Shade, Broadcaster from WQXA-FM, will officially open Mental Health Awareness week 2020.

10 am: Unlocking the Key to My Recovery
Kaitlyn Arrow will speak to us today about her recovery. She is a youth mental health advocate. Read more about Kaitlyn Arrow.

3:30-4:30 pm: Drop In For Youth, led by Youth MOVE PA
Youth MOVE PA is excited to host a series of Youth Virtual Drop-In Meetings that are all about getting some social interaction, even if we can’t go out and do our normal activities like school, sports, going to the game store, or hanging out with our friends.
Meeting link: – Meeting ID: 410-999-098

4-5 pmA Conversation with Youth About Mental Health featuring Rep. Michael Schlossberg
Rep. Schlossberg will speak with youth in Pennsylvania on a Zoom meeting, and discuss issues related to mental health. He will share a little about himself, about work that is happening in the legislature around mental health, and answer questions that youth may have about advocacy or other related topics.

Please join us and bring your questions.

Register in advance for this conversation. Seats are limited. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
9:30 am: Trauma Training 101SESSION FULLY BOOKED
Trauma 101: An Overview of Trauma-Informed Care (2-hour workshop)
Trauma 101: Research shows that 67% of the population has experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience. These trauma-based adversities are predictive of a multitude of toxic physical, mental, and social outcomes throughout a person’s lifetime. As a society and as individuals, we need to be better informed and prepared to prevent and address the traumatic impact of childhood adversities.

10 am: Ariel Mickey Stop. Watch. Listen.
Ariel Mickey, a youth advocate, and a special education teacher will speak to us about her lived experience starting at the age of 12. Read more about Ariel Mickey.

11 am: Shalawn James, United We Stand Divided We Fall
Shalawn James, Acting Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Pennsylvania will speak to us about her lived experience. Read more about Shalawn James.

2 pm: Secretary Teresa Miller, Too Many People Struggle in Silence
Secretary Teresa Miller will speak to us about Mental Health Awareness Month, struggling in silence, and more. Read more about Secretary Miller.

5:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.: Together @ Home  
Together at Home: Resources for Youth and Families is a virtual conference designed specifically for families and students to finish the school year strong. Presenters will offer twenty-minute sessions to assist with learning in a virtual environment. Several sessions have been specially designed just for students.
Register now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
9:30 am: Trauma Training 102SESSION FULLY BOOKED
Trauma 102: Basic Skills of Trauma-Informed Care (2-hour workshop)
Building on information provided in Trauma 101, participants will expand their understanding of trauma and be provided with specific skills that enhance their abilities to interact with trauma-impacted people in emotionally and relationally healthy ways. As we become trauma-aware, we have a responsibility to prevent, avoid, and respond to trauma as well as suggest trauma-informed therapeutic options.

10 am: Jen Shade, You are Not Alone
Jen Shade, Broadcaster from WQXA-FM, will talk to us about her lived experience, and how things have changed for the better in the mental health field. Read more about Jen Shade.

2 pm: Kristin Houser, May is Mental Health Month
“We are more aware of the need for behavioral health care this May then we ever have been before.” She will talk to us about resources that are available to all Pennsylvanians. Read more about Kristin Houser.

2:30 pm: Youth MOVE National, MOVE it Forward, Perfect Vision 20/20
What is a vision board? What should it look like? How do I involve youth in this process?
All these questions and more will be answered at our Vision Sessions, hosted by Youth MOVE National staff. We will walk through ways to participate in this year’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness campaign and create your own vision board.
This training will be provided using Zoom. Join Zoom Meeting.

3:30-4:30 pm: Drop In For Youth, led by Youth MOVE PA
Youth MOVE PA is excited to host a series of Youth Virtual Drop-In Meetings that are all about getting some social interaction, even if we can’t go out and do our normal activities like school, sports, going to the game store, or hanging out with our friends.
Heidi Niebauer from My Life will be the special co-host. Heidi will be talking specifically about mindfulness, movement, and self-care for youth. Join us.
Meeting link: – Meeting ID: 410-999-098

Thursday, May 21, 2020
9:30 am: Trauma Training 103SESSION FULLY BOOKED
Trauma 103: Recognizing Vicarious & Secondary Trauma for Caregivers
The emotional and physical cost of being an engaged and empathetic caregiver can be an occupational hazard. Considering the potential impact of vicarious and secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, and burn-out, caregivers are provided with critical steps in identifying signs and symptoms of each. Additionally, practical skills and a commitment to self-care are an integral part of this interactive workshop.

10 am: Ariel Mickey The Word of Words and Kindness
Ariel will talk about her experience working with youth, especially those living with a label attached to them because so often all they ever see is the label and not their actual worth as a person. Read more about Ariel Mickey.

11 am: George Fleming Share Your Voice, Dad to Dad
George will talk to us about being a father with a child with mental health challenges and provide insights for other fathers. Read more about George Fleming.

2 pm: Dr. Rachel Levine The Important of Self Care
Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania, will speak to us about the importance of self-care, especially during this time of COVID-19, and to reflect and bring attention to our mental health.

Friday, May 22, 2020
10 am: Ayala Rosenthal Don’t Give Up, Help is Out There
Ayala is a youth advocate who will talk to us about her lived experienced, being an advocate and getting help. Read more about Ayala Rosenthal.

11 am: Kathy Quick and Tristan Schnoke, Mother and Daughter
Kathy and Tristan, mother and daughter, will talk to us about their lived experiences, their relationship, and how they continue on today. Read more about Kathy and Tristan.

2 pm: Secretary Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith, Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Read more about Secretary Smith.

3:30-4:30 pm: Drop In For Youth, led by Youth MOVE PA
Youth MOVE PA is excited to host a series of Youth Virtual Drop-In Meetings that are all about getting some social interaction, even if we can’t go out and do our normal activities like school, sports, going to the game store, or hanging out with our friends.
Meeting link: – Meeting ID: 410-999-098

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The RCPA Mental Health Steering Committee invites you to share your support of Mental Health Awareness Month. We have included information on Blue Out Fridays, an initiative which honors frontline workers.

When posting to your social media accounts, please tag RCPA on Facebook and Twitter – @paproviders – so we can also showcase your efforts. We thank you for your work during this crisis and every day.

(From the National Council for Behavioral Health)

Join us on Wednesday, May 13, for a “Day of Action” on social media to send a message to Congress to fund community mental health services in the next COVID-19 package. Led by Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), there will be a “tweetstorm” between 1–4 pm ET where you can lend your support by posting the language below – or a 30-second video of yourself – across your social media channels. Be sure to use #Time2Act and #FundMentalHealth. Let’s raise the volume on this urgent issue together!

  • This is Mental Health Month, and I hope you’ll join me in calling on Congress to fund critical services in our communities. Many community mental health centers are facing closure right at the time when their services are needed the most. Let’s make sure those with mental illness and addiction don’t get left behind in this health pandemic.

Resources for Mental Health Month
As we continue to combat COVID-19, it’s important that we remain mindful of – and take the time to manage – our own mental health and wellness. In recognition of Mental Health Month, we put together a handful of resources to help you do just that. Throughout May, we hope you will visit our resources directory for tools, information, and learning opportunities.

Medicare binary sign concept illustration design over black

On April 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released guidance expanding the types of telehealth services that may be conducted as audio-only encounters for the duration of the public health emergency. The National Council has been pushing for these changes and is pleased to see the list of audio-only codes expanded to include many behavioral health services, including individual and group therapy, diagnostic evaluation, and more.

For a full listing of Medicare telehealth codes, including those that may be billed as audio-only encounters, please see this spreadsheet.

Concurrently, Medicare issued an Interim Final Regulation making additional changes applicable to telehealth. Of relevance to behavioral health providers:

  • Increase in reimbursement for certain audio-only E/M codes: Previous guidance permitted billing for audio-only telehealth visits for certain CPT codes, including virtual check-ins and some evaluation and management codes. CMS is now increasing payments for a limited number of E/M telephone encounters (specifically, 99441-99443) to match payments for similar office and outpatient visits. This would increase payments for these services from a range of about $14-$41 to about $46-$110. The payments are retroactive to March 1, 2020.
  • Expansion of audio-only billing for Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs): Previous guidance permitted therapy and counseling to take place via audio-only telehealth in OTPs. OTPs will now be able to do periodic assessments via audio-only calls.
  • Expansion of telehealth for partial hospitalization programs: In the context of hospital and outpatient partial hospitalization programs (for outpatient organizations, this guidance applies to those registered with Medicare under the Place of Service code for Community Mental Health Centers), individual psychotherapy, patient education, and group psychotherapy can now be billed as telehealth visits, including via audio-only encounters when audio/video technology is not available. All other PHP requirements remain unchanged, including that all services furnished under the PHP still require an order by a physician, must be supervised by a physician, and others. These encounters may take place with the patient in their own home.

Click to read the full Interim Final Regulation or a summary.
Questions? Contact

Toolkit will help states identify and address barriers to telehealth coverage during emergency

Today, the Trump Administration released a new toolkit for states to help accelerate adoption of broader telehealth coverage policies in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  This release builds on the agency’s swift actions to provide states with a wide range of tools and guidance to support their ability to care for their Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries during this public health emergency.

Ensuring that patients can safely receive the care they need at home minimizes travel to healthcare facilities and supports efforts to limit community spread of the virus. Under President Trump’s leadership, CMS has taken numerous steps to ensure that Americans can access the health care services they need through electronic and virtual means.  Swift actions in Medicare have ensured that the nation’s health coverage program for seniors is able to pay for telehealth services delivered nationwide and in any setting, with recent steps expanding Medicare payment for 80 additional telehealth services.

Building on those actions, CMS is providing this toolkit for states to take similar steps. Medicaid and CHIP programs are jointly administered by the state and federal governments, and together provide health coverage for over 71 million Americans, including 35 million children.  Coverage and payment policies vary by state within federal parameters, and this toolkit will help states identify policies which may impede the rapid deployment of telehealth when providing care.  States enjoy broad federal flexibility to cover telehealth through Medicaid, including which methods of communication (such as telephonic, video technology commonly available on smart phones and other devices) a state may use.

“While not all patient interactions can be delivered through telehealth, our clinicians on the frontlines need every tool in their arsenal to fight this invisible enemy,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “I’m urging states to use this toolkit to make sure our Medicaid patients, particularly our children, can continue to receive needed care from the safety of their homes.”

This toolkit provides states with issues to consider as they evaluate the need to expand their telehealth capabilities and coverage policies, including:

  • Patient populations eligible for telehealth: Federal rules allow Medicaid services to be delivered via telehealth across all populations. The toolkit will help states identify restrictions on telehealth eligibility, like only allowing coverage for beneficiaries who live in rural areas.
  • Coverage and reimbursement policies: While telehealth may not be appropriate for all services, states should review services even if they have not traditionally been delivered in such a manner. For example, some states may have only allowed behavioral health services to be delivered through telehealth. Medicaid reimbursement rates also need to be adequate to facilitate care delivered through telehealth. Not all states have provided reimbursement parity with face to face encounters.
  • Providers and practitioners eligible to provide telehealth: The toolkit will help states to evaluate whether state practice acts or regulations limit the ability for certain providers to deliver services through telehealth.
  • Technology requirements: The dominant form of telehealth is generally thought of as two-way audio/visual communication, or a video chat. However, telehealth is much broader than this since other forms have always existed alongside what some people consider standard telehealth, such as remote patient monitoring, etc.
  • Pediatric considerations: Given the importance of Medicaid and CHIP to the pediatric population, the toolkit includes a special focus on this group. For example, states should consider state consent and privacy laws in the development of telehealth coverage policies for children.

The toolkit also includes a compilation of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and other resources available to states. This toolkit is the latest in a series of tools and checklists that CMS has released to help provide states emergency flexibilities and resources that they need during the during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

This release and earlier CMS actions in response to the COVID-19 virus, are all part of ongoing White House Coronavirus Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, click here For a complete and updated list of CMS actions, guidance, and other information in response to the COVID-19 virus, please visit the, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.

On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency due to COVID-19. Federal regulations allow for exceptions to normal processing procedures for Medical Assistance (MA) eligibility in special circumstances such as a national emergency. Upon the Governor’s authorization in accordance with the disaster emergency proclamation, the Secretary of the Department of Human Services (Department) suspended any MA eligibility determinations associated regulations outlined in the Pennsylvania Code.

Thus, individuals having MA coverage on March 18, 2020, should retain their MA eligibility unless:

  • They are no longer a resident of Pennsylvania;
  • The individual requested their MA benefits be closed;
  • The individual has passed away; or
  • The individual is incarcerated.

View the Provider Quick Tips from the Department of Human Services.

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Hole torn in a dollar bill with medicaid text

CR 11759 updates the Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities (IPF) Pricer software used in Medicare claims processing. The software package is due to be released on or about April 1, 2020 and contains an update to the comorbidity tables to include the new ICD-10 diagnosis code, for the Novel Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19, U07.1, effective for claims with discharges occurring on or after April 1, 2020. Please make sure your billing staffs are aware of this update.