Policy Areas

Earlier this week, the Department of Health (DOH) released the COVID Alert Exposure Notification App, which is now available and can be downloaded for free in the Google and Apple stores (links provided below). The COVID Alert PA is a free mobile App using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology and the Exposure Notification System developed by Apple and Google. The app offers:

  • Interactive COVID-19 symptom checker
  • Opt-in for alerts for potential exposures to the virus
  • Updates on the latest public health data about COVID-19 in PA
  • Advice for what to do if you have a potential exposure to COVID-19

COVID Alert PA protects both privacy and personal information. The app does not use GPS, location services, or any movement or geographical information. It will never collect, transmit, or store personal information. It is completely anonymous.

Existing traditional contact tracing processes rely on a positive individual to remember and name who they have been in contact with recently, and for how long. In many cases, positive COVID-19 individuals may not even know the people they were in close contact with, like if the contact happened on a bus or train, at a check-out line in a grocery store, a restaurant or some other public venue.

The app supplements traditional contact tracing processes by being able to identify strangers a positive app user came in contact with and help stop the rapid spread of COVID-19. If the app detects that you have been in close contact with another user who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will receive a push notification on your phone. This is called an exposure alert and will be followed by what you should do to monitor your own health. You can learn more about the app and how it works here.

The Department of Human Services is committed to supporting this effort and helping protect the people we serve encouraging use of COVID Alert PA. This technology only works if others have downloaded the app, which is why they are asking all Pennsylvanians to unite against COVID and download the app.

DOH also has an extensive catalog of marketing materials including posters, social media posts, press releases, and other customizable content if you are interested in helping them to get the word out.

Date of Data Extraction: 9/23/2020

This report is produced using data on COVID-19 that is self-reported by ODP providers and Supports Coordinators. ODP began capturing this data in mid-March 2020.

COVID-19 Suspected means that a person has been tested for the COVID-19 virus and is awaiting the test results OR a test has been ordered by a health care practitioner, but the person has not been tested yet.

COVID-19 Confirmed means that a person was tested for the COVID-19 virus and test was positive OR was diagnosed with COVID-19 by a health care practitioner even if no test was completed.

Tested Negative means that a person was tested for the COVID-19 virus and test was negative.

COVID-19 data for individuals with an intellectual disability or autism is captured using the Enterprise Incident Management (EIM) system. Data is captured for individuals who:

  • Reside in a private Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with an Intellectual Disability;
  • Receive Home and Community-based (HCBS) Waiver services;
  • Receive base-funded services; or
  • Reside in ODP-licensed settings but do not receive HCBS Waiver or base-funded services, e.g. are private-pay or whose services are funded by another state.

Data for Pennsylvanians with an intellectual disability or autism who are not known to ODP (i.e. who do not fall into one of the above categories) is not captured.

COVID-19 data for staff persons who support the individuals identified above was captured using an email resource account maintained by ODP through June 10, 2020. From June 10 forward providers report staff COVID-19 data via a web-based form developed by ODP. “Staff” include any staff employed by the service provider. Supports Coordinators who have no physical contact with enrolled individuals since mid-March are not included.

ODP COVID Chart 09-23-20


  • The amount of time between testing for COVID-19 and obtaining the test results may be as much as 7 days.
  • It takes 24 hours for data submitted through EIM or through the resource account to be available to ODP for aggregate, statewide reporting.
  • Data is not validated against Department of Health records.
  • Data on confirmed, tested negative and deaths is cumulative.
  • Effective June 10, 2020 ODP transitioned to a web-based tool for the reporting of Staff COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 Data for ODP licensed residential settings and private ICFs by county can be found here.

COVID-19 Data for State Centers is updated daily and can be found here.


Drug and Alcohol Confidentiality

DDAP is pleased to announce the availability of an online training module for Drug and Alcohol Confidentiality through TrainPA. This training is a review of the federal and state confidentiality laws and regulations protecting the privacy of those seeking and receiving services for Substance Use Disorders, and is designed to help participants gain the basic knowledge needed to effectively perform their job duties within the parameters of confidentiality protections. It is required to be completed within 365 days of hire for SCA staff and their contracted providers.


Talking About PTSD: Improving Communication and Care for Refugee Patients
A webinar with mental health experts, medical interpreters, refugee community leaders, and refugee health care providers who will discuss the challenges of communicating mental health treatment options across language and cultural differences and how new resources can help foster better communication between clinicians, professional medical interpreters, and refugee patients. By strengthening providers’ knowledge of PTSD treatment for refugees, providing tools for clinicians and interpreters, and advocating for evidence-based PTSD treatment for refugee adults, we can help refugees feel more comfortable with mental health referral and treatment. Register today.

Lifeline Webinar: Tools, Training and Tips for Call Center Success | September 24 – 2 pm
In a year of enduring crises, helping those who help others is essential to achieving progress. In this “behind-the-scenes” webinar, learn how the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network is delivering tools and training to address compassion fatigue among call center staff; hear from front line workers who are helping callers navigate the pandemic and social unrest; and leave with self-care strategies you can apply in your own organization. Experience the on-the-ground impact of Lifeline call centers and learn more about their valuable role during these challenging times – register today.

Prevent Suicide PSA Contest Graphic2021 PSA Contest for Youth Suicide Prevention
Prevent Suicide PA is once again hosting the annual PSA contest for high school students. This is a great opportunity to engage students in a dialogue around suicide prevention, the importance of positive messaging, and communicating effectively. Staff who have participated in the past have seen this as a way to teach students on many levels (academically, socially, and emotionally), and students have been empowered to use their voice to reach out to their peers.

This year’s contest officially begins Monday, September 21, 2020 and all submissions are due by Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Contest rules and submission guidelines can be found here.

All of the winning and honorable mention PSAs from previous years are available for free public use and can be accessed here. These are great resources to use during Suicide Prevention Month and throughout the year.

Pennsylvania’s legislature and Governor Wolf are currently in discussions about how to distribute around $1 billion in the second round of CARES Act funding for COVID-19 relief. RCPA and our partners advocated for funding in May from the first round of CARES Act funding. While we were successful in securing funding to keep providers afloat during the first few months of the pandemic, it is critical that the IDD system receive another infusion of funding in our to remain secure for the last few months of the year. Pennsylvania ID/A providers are experiencing a loss of revenue and increased costs of approximately $90 million per month due to COVID-19. In order to stay afloat through the last three months of 2020, we are requesting $270 Million in COVID-19 Relief Funding from the second round of CARES Act Funding. The decisions on COVID-19 Relief Funding Distribution will be made by the end of the month so the time to act is now.

We need your help! We are asking that you reach out to your Executive staff, Direct Support Professionals, and especially the family members of the individuals you support to help advocate for this critical funding. Here is a draft letter that can be used to send to legislators and talking points that outline the challenges faced by providers during the pandemic. Please feel free to customize the letter.

For further information, contact Carol Ferenz.

The Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) released an Update to Announcement 20-095, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Community Participation Support (CPS) Retainer Payments – New Updates 9-21-2020. The purpose of this update is to provide information on retainer payments for August and September 2020. All updates are in red. Please review the announcement for additional details.