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OMHSAS

Do you want to make a real difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians with mental health and substance use disorders?

The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) Mental Health Planning Council is currently accepting applications for new members to participate in the meetings held four times a year.

In the words of its members, Mental Health Planning Council ​”helps the state of Pennsylvania live its stated commitment to quality, meaningful, recovery-oriented behavioral health care for citizens wanting wellness and wholeness” and “advocates for the behavioral health and wellness of all Pennsylvania’s citizens.”

The Planning Council provides a forum for youth, adults, and family members with lived experience to work side-by-side with advocates, providers, administrators, and OMHSAS leadership to provide recommendations regarding important, statewide policy and programmatic issues.

Current Planning Council members say:

  • “The voices of those who are working towards health, wellness, and recovery must be part of the discussion on how this system is designed, implemented, and evaluated.”
  • “Members have first-hand knowledge of the issues facing [individuals] across the state and are a part of making recommendations for solutions.”

To be considered for the membership term starting in July 2017, please complete and return the application by March 31, 2017.

For more information about the OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council, visit this website or contact Cristal Leeper. Individuals interested in applying for membership are encouraged to attend the March 2 meeting of the Mental Health Planning Council in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Note: Planning Council members must be willing and able to attend at least three meetings per year in the Harrisburg, PA area (some or all travel expenses may be reimbursable; please contact them for more information).

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Pennsylvania is experiencing an opioid crisis of unprecedented proportions. A document summarizing of one of the most significant problems in the drug and alcohol treatment system was recently sent to Secretary Gary Tennis, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and Deputy Secretary Dennis Marion, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS).

The drug and alcohol programs have been chronically underfunded for many years. Treatment providers have worked to operate efficiently and within the constraints of budgeting limitations. However, the consequences of these financial limitations, particularly the lack of rate increases, have caused severe financial strain on the provider system. The lack of a fair rate setting process which assures that the reasonable cost of services are covered has led to inadequate rates, resulting in programs closing, no longer working in the publicly funded system, or refusing to increase the size of their commitment to offering services to public clients. This can best be evidenced by the extreme lack of detox facilities available today.

RCPA has requested an opportunity to work with DDAP and OMHSAS to assure adequate services to meet the needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania. The next step will be to meet with both officials to discuss the critical issue of implementing a fair rate setting process. Contact RCPA Director, Drug & Alcohol Division, Lynn Cooper, with any questions.

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The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) has issued a new bulletin: OMHSAS-16-04 Training Requirements for Licensed Behavior Specialists Who Use Behavioral Specialist Consultant-Autism Spectrum Disorder Services to Provide Applied Behavioral Analysis. The new requirements are effective as of Sunday, May 15, 2016. This bulletin applies to organizations, individuals, and entities approved to provide Behavioral Specialist Consultant-Autism Spectrum Disorder (BSC-ASD) services, and who use these services to provide Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) in the fee-for-service and HealthChoices behavioral health managed care delivery systems. The purpose of this bulletin is to notify providers of the training requirements for newly licensed behavior specialists who use BSC-ASD services to provide ABA and who meet the training requirements for the behavior specialist license through trainings approved by the Bureau of Autism Services or the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

RCPA has been advocating for years for significant changes to the Mental Health Outpatient regulations to help to protect and strengthen mental health outpatient services in Pennsylvania. In 2010, RCPA developed a position paper outlining the major problems in this area. In response to this crisis, the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) developed a task force to work on regulation changes. The task force was a broad range of stakeholders which included consumers, counties, providers, and behavioral health managed care organizations. The task force worked for several years to develop a new set of regulations intended to protect and strengthen mental health outpatient services. The job of the task force was complete in 2014 and OMHSAS submitted the revised regulations to internal sources for approval. From beginning to now, it has been six years since we requested help. OMHSAS responded with strong support but the regulations have been held up in various areas of the department and the administration.

We received the following email today from Jean Rush, who has been the lead at OMHSAS since the beginning of the project:

“I wanted to share the current status of the OP regulation package since we drafted the revisions. With the expansion of Medicaid, the department has made changes to our State Plan Amendments for compliance with ACA which have been approved by CMS. This will require some minimal changes to the OP regulation package which were not an issue during our work.

OMHSAS will be making the minimal changes to the regulation package in conjunction with the Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP) as the Medicaid Authority for the Commonwealth, as well as our Office of Legal Counsel.

The changes will not impact your recommendations but are necessary for compliance and the ability to complete the IRRC review. We will share the changes with you via email and if there are any areas where input is needed, I will be contacting you to schedule a call to discuss.

We appreciate all of the time and dedication to this project and will continue to work on making the changes to move this regulation package to completion. It is still a priority for the department.”

RCPA is hopeful that a resolution is forthcoming and will keep you all posted.

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RCPA sent a letter to the leadership and support of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), requesting that a task force be formed to review and change the extremely outdated drug and alcohol medical assistance outpatient regulations, Chapter 1223 Outpatient Drug and Alcohol Clinic Services. OMHSAS did an outstanding job of organizing a task force and developing regulation changes for mental health outpatient services. These much improved regulations are in the last stages of being finalized. The same process needs to be implemented for drug and alcohol outpatient services. As stated many times before, outpatient treatment in Pennsylvania is at risk of collapse.

A number of years ago, RCPA (known as PCPA at the time) developed a white paper, which highlights the value of outpatient services, reviews the current challenges/threats to services, and outlines what needs to happen to assure the viability of these critical services. The paper emphasizes that when utilized appropriately, outpatient treatment can save millions of dollars in inpatient and emergency room costs. The paper also highlights specific clinical, regulatory, and financial challenges, and makes recommendations for changes in both mental health and drug and alcohol services.

As with the mental health outpatient regulation changes, changes in the drug and alcohol outpatient regulations will save money, improve access and services, reduce unnecessary paperwork, update clinical terminology, update treatment trends, and improve outcomes.

RCPA requested that a time limited group of stakeholders be convened to evaluate drug and alcohol outpatient medical assistance regulation issues and make recommendations for much needed changes. Given the current issues that exist, this task force needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Contact Lynn Cooper with questions or for any additional information.