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PA Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

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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.

(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