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RCPA will be hosting our 2018 Capitol Day on Tuesday, April 17. During the day, RCPA will hold a press conference in the Main Rotunda and members will be asked to visit key legislators to discuss the state budget, legislation, and regulations that affect the day-to-day activities of our members.

More information will follow, but if you have questions or have suggestions regarding our 2018 Capitol Day, please contact Jack Phillips, Government Affairs Director/Senior Policy Officer.

The 2018/19 budget provides a $74 million increase for services for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. The amount annualizes significant investments from FY 17/18 and continues building capacity to increase the number of individuals served. Within this total, the budget targets $16 million to enroll 965 individuals with an intellectual disability or autism in waivers to provide supports and services so they can remain in their homes and communities. This includes the following:

  • 100 individuals from the emergency waiting list into the Consolidated Waiver;
  • 800 individuals into the Person/Family Directed Support Waiver and the Community Living Waiver;
  • 40 individuals from the interest list into the Adult Community Autism Programs (ACAP); and
  • 25 individuals transitioning from state centers to community placements.

Approximately 800 individuals with an intellectual disability or autism are leaving the special education system every year. This investment will fully alleviate the functional deterioration that occurs with individuals who are home with no activity, helping families to avoid a service “cliff” at age 21. The Community Living Waiver and Consolidated Waiver will allow counties to meet the growing needs of existing participants and provide support for high school graduates. Significantly, this budget will provide funding for students not only graduating in June of 2018, but also in June of 2019 to alleviate this ongoing concern.

Since Governor Wolf took office in 2015, funding for services for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism has experienced $350 million in growth. For questions, contact Jack Phillips at or Carol Ferenz.

RCPA received notice that Ellen DiDomenico, currently Special Assistant for the Department of Human Services (DHS), has been selected as Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) during Secretary Smith’s upcoming extended (two month) medical leave of absence.

The announcement from Lynn Kovich, MEd, Deputy Secretary of DHS, Office of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), stated that Ms. DiDomenico was asked to serve in this role because of her key involvement in certain initiatives that bring DDAP and OMHSAS together, such as the 21st Century Cures grant, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) initiative, the AHRQ Medication Assisted Treatment in rural communities grant, and the Opioid Use Disorder-Centers of Excellence (OUD-COEs). In addition, it is hoped that in this role, she will be able to further bridge the gap between the two agencies. Ellen will continue to play a leadership role in the major initiatives that span both agencies, following her move to DDAP. Effective Monday, January 8, Ms. DiDomenico will officially be part of DDAP staff, but will physically be located at OMHSAS until after DDAP’s relocation downtown later this month.

RCPA looks forward to working with Ellen in her new position and wishes the best to Jennifer Smith during her leave.

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Today, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously passed HB 478, the Outpatient Psychiatric Oversight Act. The bill now moves to the Senate floor. As background, RCPA and its members have been working on getting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to move the outpatient psychiatric regulations, which have been promulgated for more than three years.

Over the past few months, DHS has taken steps to move the outpatient regulations towards completion. RCPA supports DHS’ efforts to move this package of regulations; however, because of the length of time it has taken to move the regulations, certain provisions contained within the regulation package are antiquated or need to be updated to current outpatient service delivery standards.

Specifically, the psychiatric recruitment crisis has grown exponentially, especially in rural areas. By introducing HB 478, Rep. Pickett (R–Bradford, Sullivan, and Susquehanna Counties), the prime sponsor of the bill, has taken legislative action to update sections within the outpatient psychiatric regulation package to current outpatient service delivery standards, and to start implementing these updates immediately through this legislation.

In short, HB 478 provides that:

  • An outpatient psychiatric clinic needs to have a psychiatrist on site for two hours of psychiatric time per week for each full-time equivalent treatment staff member employed by the clinic;
  • Tele-psychiatry can be utilized by a psychiatrist, who has prescriptive authority in Pennsylvania and is not on site. The Department of Human Services will have to approve a service description;
  • 50 percent of the required on-site time may be provided by other advanced practice professionals specializing in behavioral health with prescriptive authority in Pennsylvania; and
  • The Department of Human Services will promulgate regulations as necessary to carry out the provisions of the act.

RCPA believes that Rep. Pickett’s bill, HB 478, will allow psychiatrists to see more clients in a timely fashion and ultimately increase access to psychiatric services, which is vital due to the shortage of psychiatrists in the Commonwealth.

As the bill moves through the process, RCPA will keep members informed. Contact Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs, with any questions.

Executive Order to Review State Licensure Board Requirements & Processes

In the November 11, 2017 Pennsylvania Bulletin, Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order (No. 2017-03) that directs the Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs within the Department of State to conduct a review of the State Professional and Occupational Licensure board requirements and processes. This includes a comprehensive review of the processes, fees, training, and continuing education requirements and prepared report for each type of professional and occupational license. The report is to include: training requirements; licensing, registration, and renewal fees; continuing education requirements; and any other requirements described within the executive order. The report is to also include information regarding the number of other states which require a license for each professional or occupational license, the national and regional averages for training requirements, fees, and continuing education requirements.

The Commissioner has been given the authority to establish an advisory group to assist with the research, data collection, and formatting of the reports, and any other function the Commissioner deems necessary. The advisory group shall be composed of members chosen by the Commissioner from the professional Boards and Commissions, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) staff, and any other persons the Commissioner deems necessary. The advisory group must be established within 30 days from the effective date of this executive order. Additional details regarding the report are provided in the bulletin.

The report is due to the Governor, the Secretary of Policy and Planning, and the Secretary of the Commonwealth no later than 180 days from the establishment of the advisory group or 210 days from the effective date of this executive order, whichever is sooner.

Some of the boards impacted by this executive order include: State Board of Physical Therapy, State Board of Speech–Language Pathology and Audiology, the State Board of Medicine, the State Board of Nursing, the State Board of Occupational Therapy, etc.

The executive order is effective immediately.