Mental Health

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RCPA is recognizing Mental Health Awareness Days.

Monday, May 6, 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm, Pennsylvania State Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg, PA, guest speakers including:

  • Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services;
  • Ruth Fox, CEO of Allegheny Family Network;
  • Kaitlyn Arrow, a 17-year-old experienced speaker; and
  • Donnell Brown, adult in recovery

At this time, the Dennis Marion Award for Service will be given.

Wednesday, May 8, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA, over 40 vendors will be present to discuss services that are available to young people, their families, professionals, and service professionals.

See here for more information.

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In 2004, the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) Advisory Committee formed a Recovery Work Group, tasked to explore how to transition the adult mental health system in Pennsylvania into a more recovery-oriented approach. The Recovery Work Group was convened, by invitation, to discuss the process of developing a blueprint for building a recovery-oriented service system in Pennsylvania. This collaboration of broad-based stakeholders resulted in A Call for Change, a document that would outline a destination for Systems Transformation and provide guidance on strategies for how to get there.

Because A Call for Change focused on transforming the adult-serving behavioral health system, in 2010, the OMHSAS Children’s Bureau proceeded with developing a document to guide transformation of the child-serving system to one that promotes resiliency for children, youth, and their families.  A Call for Change: Transformation of the Children’s Behavioral Health System in Pennsylvania was drafted as a strategic plan, identifying an ideal array of services, goals, and prioritized action steps to achieve systems change.

Several years have passed since these documents were developed.  In the Fall of 2018, the OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council challenged OMHSAS to re-visit A Call for Change, to assess how far Pennsylvania’s  behavioral health system that serves children, youth, and their families, as well as adults and older adults, has progressed with transformation, and to identify priorities for future efforts.  OMHSAS agreed to support the assessment of progress and the issuance of A Call for Change, 2019.

The assessment phase will include regional on-site listening sessions, intended to generate broad-based stakeholder input and dialogue.  The schedule for the regional listening sessions is available here with newly scheduled options and rescheduled dates for the Southeast Region.  In addition, OMHSAS is posting an online survey to obtain input from stakeholders who are unable to attend a session. The survey can be accessed through May 1, 2019 at this link.

Any questions or comments related to the Call for Change Project can be directed here.

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In continuing with our member benefit to assist you with Value-Based Payment (VBP) methodologies, RCPA, with Health Management Associate (HMA), has facilitated several discussions on the transition to accountable care, VBP concepts, and organizational readiness. HMA, in collaboration with CohnReznick, has developed a web-based VBP Readiness Assessment Tool to evaluate your readiness for VBP. This VBP Readiness Assessment Tool is usually offered to providers for $2,500 per member. RCPA has partnered with HMA to secure this tool for $2,125 per member; if more than 30 RCPA members purchase the assessment, the price will be reduced to only $1,800 per organization. HMA will work to enroll participating providers, secure your agreement to the tool’s end user license agreement, and provide you with both online and PDF versions of the appropriate readiness assessment tool.

We look forward to your participation with this assessment tool. Please contact Suzanne Daub or Meggan Schilkie for questions and additional information.

Final Rule will strengthen popular Medicare private health insurance plans, expand telehealth access for patients, and improve coordination for dual-eligible individuals

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized policies that will increase plan choices and benefits, including allowing Medicare Advantage plans to include additional telehealth benefits. These policies continue the agency’s efforts to modernize the Medicare Advantage and Part D programs, unleash innovation and drive competition to improve quality among private Medicare health and drug plans.

“Today’s policies represent a historic step in bringing innovative technology to Medicare beneficiaries,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “With these new telehealth benefits, Medicare Advantage enrollees will be able to access the latest technology and have greater access to telehealth. By providing greater flexibility to Medicare Advantage plans, beneficiaries can receive more benefits, at lower costs and better quality.”

The final policies announced today leverage new authorities provided to CMS in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which President Trump signed into law last year. CMS is finalizing changes that would allow Medicare Advantage beneficiaries to access additional telehealth benefits, starting in plan year 2020. These additional telehealth benefits offer patients the option to receive health care services from places like their homes, rather than requiring them to go to a healthcare facility.

Before this year, seniors in Original Medicare could only receive certain telehealth services if they live in rural areas. Starting this year, Original Medicare began paying for virtual check-ins across the country, meaning patients can connect with their doctors by phone or video chat. Historically, Medicare Advantage plans have been able to offer more telehealth services, compared to Original Medicare, as part of their supplemental benefits. But with the final rule, it will be more likely that plans will offer the additional telehealth benefits outside of supplemental benefits, expanding patients’ access to telehealth services from more providers and in more parts of the country than before, whether they live in rural or urban areas.

CMS is also finalizing changes that will make improvements to Medicare Advantage and Part D Star Ratings so that consumers can identify high-value plans. The final rule updates the methodology for calculating Star Ratings, which provide information to consumers on plan quality. The new Star Ratings methodology will improve the stability and predictability for plans and will adjust how the ratings are set in the event of extreme and uncontrollable events such as hurricanes.

The final rule will improve the quality of care for beneficiaries dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid who participate in Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs). These beneficiaries usually have complex health needs; if they have a complaint about their healthcare or about access to items and services, they have to work with multiple organizations, one responsible for Medicare benefits and another responsible for Medicaid benefits, in order to file an appeal. The final rule will create one appeals process across Medicare and Medicaid, which will make it easier for enrollees in certain D-SNPs to navigate the healthcare system and have access to high quality services. The final rule will also require plans to more seamlessly integrate Medicare and Medicaid benefits across the two programs, such as notifying the state Medicaid agency (or its designee) of hospital and skilled nursing facility admissions for certain high-risk beneficiaries, to promote coordination of care for these patients.

Today’s announcement builds on the 2020 Rate Announcement and Final Call Letter released earlier this week that gives Medicare Advantage plans flexibility to offer chronically ill patients a broader range of supplemental benefits that are not necessarily health related and can address social determinants of health. With these new telehealth and supplemental benefits, Medicare Advantage plans will have the flexibility to provide a historic set of offerings to beneficiaries. Medicare Advantage plans will be able to compete for patients based on their new offerings and overall cost. CMS is working to update the Medicare Plan Finder with these new choices, so that beneficiaries will be able to see their new choices and benefits and can pick the plans that work best for them.

The fact sheet on the CY 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D Flexibility Final Rule (CMS-4185-F) can be found here. The final rule can be downloaded from the Federal Register.

2019 marks the official 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) — but did you know we can trace its history even further back?

Even before its official declaration, SAAM was about both awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Looking at the history of the movement to end sexual violence, it’s clear why: it’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about, and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution. The two work in tandem, and they always have. From the civil rights movement to the founding of the first rape crisis centers to national legislation and beyond, the roots of SAAM run deep.

Roots of the Movement
As long as there have been people who care about making the world a better place, there have been individuals advocating for sexual assault prevention. In the United States, movements for social change and equality began to gain traction in the 1940s and 50s with the civil rights era. Although open discussion of the realities of sexual assault and domestic violence were limited at these times, activists for equal rights began to challenge the status quo.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about more than awareness — the ultimate goal is prevention. Since consent is a clear, concrete example of what it takes to end sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, this year’s theme centers on empowering all of us to put consent into practice. The campaign theme, I Ask, champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.

Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Nearly one in five women in the US have experienced rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives, and one in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. When we talk about prevention, we mean stopping sexual violence before it even has a chance to happen. This means changing the social norms that allow it to exist in the first place, from individual attitudes, values, and behaviors to laws, institutions, and widespread social norms. Prevention is everyone’s responsibility: All of us can create and promote safe environments. We can intervene to stop concerning behavior, promote and model healthy attitudes and relationships, and believe survivors and assist them in finding resources.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is the leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence. NSVRC translates research and trends into best practices that help individuals, communities, and service providers achieve real and lasting change. The center also works with the media to promote informed reporting. Every April, NSVRC leads Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a campaign to educate and engage the public in addressing this widespread issue.

Be sure to share your sexual assault awareness programs and activities on social media, and feel free to share on the RCPA Facebook page and Twitter feed as well.

(From DHS Secretary Miller)

Effective March 25, Valerie Vicari is serving as Acting Deputy Secretary for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). I would like to thank Lynn Kovich for her service to OMHSAS and Pennsylvania.

Valerie has been working in the ever-evolving human service field for over 25 years.  Her work has included experience in the children and youth service system and the behavioral health service system, both drug and alcohol services as well as mental health services.  Her various roles have included direct service, case management, county administration, and Commonwealth administration.  Valerie has been a leader within the behavioral health arena since the inception of the Medicaid Behavioral Health HealthChoices program in 2008.  She was part of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services team that brought innovative behavioral health community programming to Pennsylvania.  Some examples of service development include telepsychiatry, Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) programs, Long Term Structured Rehabilitation programs (LTSR), and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams.  As services evolved, telepsychiatry, CPS and ACT programming expanded to include individuals who have both behavioral health issues as well as forensic involvement.

Valerie’s most recent position has been the Chief Executive Officer at Torrance State Hospital since June 2016.  The oversight responsibilities include but are not limited to the civil psychiatric services, the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center (RFPC) and the Sexual Responsibility Treatment Program (SRTP).  There are over 300 patients served at Torrance State Hospital on an ongoing basis.  In her leadership role at Torrance the hospital has become tobacco free, telepsychiatry has been developed within the forensic unit and numerous recovery focused initiatives have commenced.

People are complex, and their overall health is shaped by a variety of factors, many of which may not be visible or evident based on a conversation. We must equally focus on behavioral health and physical health and their interconnected nature in order to truly help the people we serve. Our mental and physical health do not exist in isolation, and both are influenced by the external circumstances in a person’s life.

You may know that we are working to improve care for Pennsylvanians by encouraging a whole-person focus that includes social determinants of health as well as physical and behavioral health needs. We want to encourage our physical and behavioral health providers and social service providers to work together to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks so we’re able to make a meaningful difference in their lives. Your work can help us move towards better long-term health outcomes for Pennsylvanians who use our services, and I am excited to partner with each of you to meet this goal.

On behalf of Governor Wolf, we are grateful to your commitment to the commonwealth and people affected by mental health and substance use disorders. Thank you for the work you do to elevate these issues and help people live better lives every day.

Thank you,

Secretary Teresa Miller

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The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) wants to hear from you about what has worked and what should change in the public mental health system. In the Fall of 2018, the OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council challenged OMHSAS to re-visit A Call for Change, to assess how far Pennsylvania’s  behavioral health system that serves Children, Youth and their families, as well as Adults and Older Adults has progressed with Transformation, and to identify priorities for future efforts.

Western Region
March 29, 2019
Time: 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Location: Woodlands Foundation (The Lodge)
Address: 134 Shenot Rd, Wexford, PA 15090

Central Region
April 2, 2019
Time: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location: OMHSAS Central Office- Clothestree
Address: 303 Walnut Street, 12th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101

Southeast Region
April 10 and 11, 2019
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Norristown State Hospital Building 33 (Multipurpose Room)
Address: 1001 Sterigere St, Norristown, PA 19401

Northeast Region
Lehigh Area – April 22, 2019
Morning Session: 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Location: St. Marks Evangelical Lutheran Church
Address: 201 E. Juniata St, Allentown, PA 18103

Afternoon Session: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Location: Northampton County DHS
Address: 2801 Emrick Blvd, Bethlehem, PA 18020

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area – April 23, 2019
Morning Session: 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Location: Advocacy Alliance- Media Center
Address: 841 Jefferson St, Scranton, PA 18510

Afternoon Session: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Location: Luzerne County Human Services Bldg.
Address: 111 N. Pennsylvania Ave, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

The assessment phase will include regional on-site listening sessions, intended to generate broad-based stakeholder input and dialogue. In addition, OMHSAS is posting an online survey to obtain input from stakeholders who are unable to attend a session. The survey can be accessed through May 1, 2019 at this link.

Any questions or comments related to the Call for Change Project can be directed to this email.

From OMHSAS

Call for Change Project
In 2004, the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ (OMHSAS) Advisory Committee formed a Recovery Work Group, tasked to explore how to transition the adult mental health system in Pennsylvania into a more recovery-oriented approach. The Recovery Work Group was convened, by invitation, to discuss the process of developing a blueprint for building a recovery-oriented service system in Pennsylvania. This collaboration of broad-based stakeholders resulted in A Call for Change, a document that would outline a destination for Systems Transformation and provide guidance on strategies for how to get there.

Because A Call for Change focused on transforming the adult-serving behavioral health system, in 2010, the OMHSAS Children’s Bureau proceeded with developing a document to guide transformation of the child-serving system to one that promotes resiliency for children, youth, and their families.  A Call for Change: Transformation of the Children’s Behavioral Health System in Pennsylvania was drafted as a strategic plan, identifying an ideal array of services, goals, and prioritized action steps to achieve systems change.

Several years have passed since these documents were developed.  In the Fall of 2018, the OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council challenged OMHSAS to re-visit A Call for Change, to assess how far Pennsylvania’s  behavioral health system that serves children, youth, and their families, as well as adults and older adults, has progressed with transformation, and to identify priorities for future efforts. OMHSAS agreed to support the assessment of progress and the issuance of A Call for Change, 2019. 

The assessment phase will include regional on-site listening sessions, intended to generate broad-based stakeholder input and dialogue.  Information will be provided on the OMHSAS Listserv as soon as details for the in person listening sessions are available. In addition, OMHSAS is posting an online survey to obtain input from stakeholders who are unable to attend a session.

Any questions or comments related to the Call for Change Project can be directed to this email.