Mental Health

The PA National Guard is now a recognized member of Star Behavioral Health Providers network. Star Behavioral Health Providers (SBHP) is a training and referral program. The SBHP provides three levels of training (Tiers) for civilian behavioral health providers in your state and local communities who are interested in serving the military population, particularly NG members. SBHP offers a public online registry or listing that allows service members, their families, military behavioral health providers, military leaders, and others to easily search for trained providers in their areas. The goal is to expand access by providing culturally competent, evidence-based behavioral health treatment through this training program. Launched nearly 10 years ago, SBHP was developed as a partnership of the Indiana National Guard, National Guard Bureau, Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration, Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP), and Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University (MFRI).

This Tier 1 Training event in the Philadelphia area is being held Monday, March 30, 2020 from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, 3743 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, PA 19073.

This training is open to all participants – Providers, Clinicians, Chaplains, Counselors, local community members, etc. Registration for the event is online. The SBHP online registration process is easy, and provides additional information on future tier trainings.

Frequently asked questions regarding SBHP can be found here.

For questions:
Donna Tilley Hess, Bureau of Community & Hospital Operations –
PA Department of Human Services | Office of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
303 Walnut St., Room 12-29 Commonwealth Tower – SQ| Harrisburg, PA 17105
Phone: 717.346.0359 | Fax: 717.787.5394

This correspondence is being distributed regarding the use of Collaborative Documentation (CD) in behavioral health services in Pennsylvania. The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) supports the use and reimbursement of CD in the delivery of behavioral health services as an approach to further support transparency, engagement, and active participation in person-centered treatment and recovery.

Please submit any questions related to this memorandum via email.

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The purpose of this bulletin is to update the guidelines for delivering behavioral health services using telehealth technology previously issued in OMHSAS Bulletin 14-01, “OMHSAS Guidelines for the Approval of Telepsych Services in HealthChoices.” These updated guidelines include the following key changes from OMHSAS Bulletin 14-01:

  • Expands the use of telehealth to behavioral health practitioners who provide services in the MA Fee for Service (FFS) delivery system; and
  • Expands the use of telehealth to include treatment provided by Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners (CRNPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) certified in mental health; Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs); Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs); and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs).

View the complete bulletin and attestation form to provide telehealth here.

The 2020 RCPA Conference, Vision: 2020, will be held September 22–25 at the Hershey Lodge. The Conference is a premier statewide event, and the Conference Committee is seeking workshop proposals for possible inclusion. The Conference offers diverse educational opportunities and submissions are needed in every area. A complete listing of focus tracks is available on the proposal form. Presentations are encouraged that assist providers in developing and maintaining quality, stable, and effective treatments, services, and agencies in an industry where change is constant. The committee looks for presentations which:

  • Highlight new policy, research, and treatment initiatives;
  • Provide specific skills and information related to individual and organizational leadership development and enhancement;
  • Address system changes that affect business practices such as value-based purchasing; and
  • Offer concrete skills and tools to operate more efficient, effective agencies, as Vision: 2020 comes to you.

Workshop ideas for 2020 include workforce shortage solutions; the changing health care landscape; managing human capital/resources; executive leadership; integrated care strategies for implementation and reimbursement; managed care models for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities – other state experiences; ethics topics across the membership; emergency planning for community violence; acquisitions/mergers and consolidations; value-based purchasing; and employing people with disabilities. The committee welcomes any proposal that addresses these and other topics essential to the rehabilitation, mental health, drug and alcohol, children’s, aging, and physical/developmental disability communities. Members are encouraged to consider submitting proposals and to forward this opportunity to those who are exceptionally good speakers and have state-of-the-art information to share.

The Call for Proposals and accompanying Guidelines for Developing Educational Objectives outline requirements for submissions. The deadline for submissions is Monday, March 23 at 5:00 pm. Proposals must be submitted electronically to Sarah Eyster on the form provided. Confirmation of receipt will be sent. Proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

Proposals selected stand out by inclusion of solid learning objectives, information that a participant can use to enhance professional skills or methods, and being geared to a diverse and advanced audience. If the proposal is accepted, individuals must be prepared to present on any day of the conference. Workshops are 60/75 minutes for a single session or 120/150 minutes in length for a double session. At the time of acceptance, presenters will be required to confirm the ability to submit workshop handouts electronically four weeks prior to the conference. Individuals unable to meet this expectation should not submit proposals for consideration.

Individuals are welcome to submit multiple proposals. Notification of inclusion will be made via email by May 8. Questions may be directed to Sarah Eyster, Conference Coordinator.

February 7, 2020
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Reach Out PA: Wolf Administration Seeks Input from Providers on Barriers to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Treatment 

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that the Insurance Department, in partnership with multiple state agencies, released a survey asking health care providers for input on their experiences with barriers to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

Under the governor’s Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters initiative, the Wolf Administration is undertaking a long-term, statewide campaign that seeks to educate and empower Pennsylvania providers and consumers about consumer rights under state and federal parity laws.

“The results from this survey will allow us to better inform and collaborate with providers, advocates and personnel on the front lines,” said Gov. Wolf. “Their experiences will help us enhance resources, develop more tools and create learning opportunities that will help serve the providers’ needs, which will ultimately help those in need of mental wellness services.”

For more than a decade, state and federal laws have required that treatment and services provided for mental health and substance use disorders must not have limitations that are stricter than those applied to medical/surgical treatments. Recent market conduct examinations of Pennsylvania insurers, however, have indicated that there are noncompliant barriers that are limiting consumers’ ability to access the treatment they need for mental health and substance use disorders.

“While complicated in its wording, both state and federal law are very clear that inequitable barriers to mental health and substance use disorder treatment will not be permitted,” said Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. “Through our market conduct examinations, we have found that many insurers have placed limitations on treatment that are stricter than state and federal parity requirements allow.”

The Wolf Administration is looking for feedback from mental health and substance use disorder providers, as well as other providers who have heard from patients that they have run into barriers when seeking treatment. The survey, developed by a working group of staff from the Insurance Department, and departments of Health (DOH), Human Services (DHS), Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), State, Aging, the Office of the Attorney General and the Governor’s Office, will be sent to providers across the commonwealth.

The survey requests specific instances regarding complaints providers have heard from their patients about barriers to access. The survey also includes questions about providers’ experiences with barriers to treatment and problems with reimbursement for mental health and substance use disorder services. The aggregate data will be used to identify and address areas of concern by creating more accessible resources, included what is needed to help providers and other stakeholders learn more about parity.

“We often hear of struggles when providers seek authorization from insurers for substance use disorder treatment, particularly opioid use disorder treatment,” said DDAP Secretary Jennifer Smith. “We hope to get a better understanding of trends and how best to address them.”

“Providers typically have trusted relationships with their older adult patients that can be used to overcome stigma to seeking services and to help them gain access to mental health and substance abuse disorder treatments,” said Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres. “We want all providers to have a knowledge base that empowers them to point their patients in the right direction.”

“The process for determining whether parity protections are being followed is incredibly detailed and requires data that is best identified by mental health and substance use disorder providers,” said DOH Secretary Rachel Levine. “Using the insights we gain from this survey, we will be able to give our providers better tools to empower their patients and clients.”

“Ensuring that mental health services are accessible to all Pennsylvanians is a critical step as we work to break down stigma and other barriers that keep people away from treatment,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We need people to know that when they are ready to seek help, they will be met with support, not obstacles. This survey will help identify areas to improvement to ensure that people can access the help they need.”

The survey specific to providers will be sent directly to the e-mail addresses provided to the Department of State through the licensing process. The Insurance Department will be accepting survey responses through March 4, 2020.  For more information about the survey, individuals can e-mail

Since its introduction at the beginning of the year, Reach Out PA efforts have included a new consumer feedback form launched on January 23, and publication of a proposed regulation to enhance mental health parity reporting requirements for commercial health insurers. In just 10 days, more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians have completed the online form, offering input and suggestions, many of which detail challenges to accessing mental health services and pointing to potential parity violations.

Resources are available on agency websites, including information on substance use disorder and mental health coverage. More information and videos on parity can be found here. These resources will be updated and expanded based on responses to the survey.

J.J. Abbott, 717-783-1116
Thaisa Jones,, 717-214-4781

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The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) is sponsoring their second annual “Supporting Transgender Clients” Training Series in partnership with the Gender and Sexuality Development Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In-person training dates for Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton are now available. Please see the flyers listed below for more details and registration information:

If you have any questions about this training series, please contact Jill Stemple.

The Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) Notification Protocol for Formal Licensing Actions and Incidents, is currently outlined in Bulletin #00-19-02 released in August 2019. On October 21, 2019, OCYF convened a meeting to bring together representatives from entities covered within the scope of OCYF Bulletin #00-19-02, to discuss the intent of the notification protocol, and to develop recommendations for improvements to the process.

From the meeting, the following improvements were agreed upon and will be released in new bulletins as described below.

  • A new bulletin will be issued promptly to remove the issuance of a notification regarding removal of staff under an approved plan of supervision. These notifications are no longer being sent. This bulletin will also remove any notifications listed that are duplicative of one another, specifically those that would equate to a citation and issuance of a licensing inspection summary (LIS), as those already trigger a notification.
  • Pending the implementation of CPSL amendments, another bulletin will be issued to include a quarterly report that will be provided to county agencies and dependency and delinquency judges, providing aggregate child abuse and substantiation data for child residential or day treatment facilities, approved foster or pre-adoptive homes, and youth development centers and youth forestry camps. If/when the CPSL is amended to permit the release of specific aggregate data, a new bulletin will be issued that will provide for county agencies and dependency and delinquency judges to receive substantiation information at the conclusion of an investigation, regardless of whether they are the placing county for the child or youth for these same placement settings.

RCPA was grateful to participate in this process and commends OCYF and the systems stakeholders for the collaborative partnership on this initiative The Department of Human Services (DHS) is moving forward with implementing these changes to ensure the safety and well-being of Pennsylvania’s children and youth. If you have any questions, please contact RCPA Children’s Division Director Jim Sharp.

Clinics across the nation are now eligible to apply for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Expansion Grants, under a funding opportunity announcement released this week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The National Council has long advocated for increased funding for the grant program. We also have been a forceful advocate for expansion of CCBHCs to all 50 states. Not only does the $200 million SAMHSA will make available this year represent a $50 million increase from 2019, the funding is now available to clinics nationwide – an important step toward expanding the CCBHC model across the country.

The CCBHC program supports clinics in expanding access to a comprehensive array of mental health and addiction services in community-based settings, while improving their ability to coordinate care with other health system partners and collect and report on quality metrics.

Clinics applying for Expansion Grants are eligible for two-year grants of up to $2 million per year. Organizations in all 50 states may apply for grants, though priority will be given to clinics in the 24 states that received CCBHC planning grants in 2016.

The National Council will host an informational call to provide more details about CCBHC status, training opportunities, and lessons learned from prior cohorts. Stay tuned for more details and registration information.

SAMHSA has established a March 10 deadline for grant applications. Read the official SAMHSA announcement for more information on the program requirements.

Our website includes more information on CCBHCs, which remain among the National Council’s highest priorities.

See our blog for more details.


January 13, 2020

Contact: CMS Media Relations
(202) 690-6145 | CMS Media Inquiries

CMS Reduces Psychiatric Hospital Burden with New Survey Process
Streamlined process will improve quality of care for patients

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a streamlined survey and certification process for psychiatric hospitals, delivering on the Agency’s “Patients Over Paperwork” initiative. The full benefits of this initiative can be explored here. This new process will ensure safety and quality through more holistic and efficient hospital inspections that protect patients, while reducing burden for providers.

Currently, psychiatric hospitals surveyed by State Survey Agencies are subject to two separate onsite compliance surveys, one by the State Survey Agency (SSA) for compliance with the hospital requirements and one by an outside contractor selected by the SSA for compliance with two additional psychiatric hospital standards.

Beginning in March 2020, CMS will implement a streamlined process in which psychiatric hospitals will receive one comprehensive hospital survey performed by the SSA to review compliance with both hospital and psychiatric hospital participation requirements, allowing inspectors to take a broader view of a psychiatric hospital’s operations and better identify systemic quality issues.

“The policy of multiple inspections for psychiatric hospitals is emblematic of the absurd status quo in healthcare. For too long, fragmented and misaligned processes have increased burden and administrative costs,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Under President Trump’s leadership, CMS is upending the status quo and forging ahead with practical, commonsense changes to streamline our processes to reduce burden and improve oversight and patient safety, and reducing unnecessary administrative costs.”

To participate in Medicare, a psychiatric hospital is required to meet both general hospital Conditions of Participation (CoPs) and separate CoPs for psychiatric hospitals. CoPs are federal requirements that promote the health, safety and well-being of the patients being treated in these facilities. CMS is not making any changes to these safety and quality requirements.

Moving to a single survey process will benefit patients by ensuring psychiatric hospital services are evaluated in the context of the overall hospital survey program, making it easier for surveyors and the provider to identify and correct systemic quality issues that impact patient care. It also benefits providers by reducing the regulatory burden currently imposed on psychiatric hospitals because a single survey team conducting the survey will conduct, and only one report would be issued documenting any survey findings, instead of two.

CMS is notifying hospitals, SSAs and psychiatric hospital stakeholders of this upcoming change through a memorandum released today. This change does not affect accreditation organizations’ current methodologies for approving hospitals or psychiatric hospitals, or CMS’s criteria for approving accreditation organizations to survey such facilities. To ensure states are appropriately prepared to begin conducting these surveys in March 2020, CMS is developing an online training that will be released soon.

For more information about the change in the psychiatric hospital survey process and to see the memorandum, visit:


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