Authors Posts by Carol Ferenz

Carol Ferenz


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The Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) is happy to announce the publication of the next online Visual Gestural Communication (VGC) training module! Over 8,000 individuals supported in the ODP system have VGC listed as their primary mode of communication.

The first module previously published went over the basics of VGC. The next module will review visual schedules. To take this module, you will first need to complete module 1. These modules can be found on MyODP.org under Trainings > Special Populations > Non-traditional Communication.

*Please Note: Closed captioning and transcription available.

For questions, email ODP Deaf Services.

The RCPA IDD Committee met to discuss Pennsylvania’s plan for use of the American Rescue Plan funds. The comments gathered at this meeting will be used to develop RCPA’s comments that will be submitted to the Department of Human Services (DHS). The recording is available to members only here. If you have comments you would like added to our response, please contact Carol Ferenz, Director of IDD Division.

ODP Announcement 21-048 is intended to supplement — not replace — any federal, state, or local public health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which providers of the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) home and community-based services must comply. Additionally, there may be instances where there are differences in CDC guidance from PA Department of Health (DOH) guidance. In these instances, PA DOH guidance should be followed as the lead agency of the COVID-19 response for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

All direct support professionals (DSPs) should follow risk mitigation recommendations, which include, but are not limited to, infection prevention strategies for universal masking, screening, and handwashing as outlined in the guidance included in this communication.

This announcement includes a chart outlining obsolete guidance and new guidance to be followed by service type, with links to the applicable documents.

ODP encourages any provider who has a question to reach out for clarification and support. The following resources can provide support as appropriate:

  1. Regional Congregate Care Assistance Teams (RCAT)
  2. PA DOH at 877-PA-HEALTH (877-724-3258)
  3. Health Care Quality Units (HCQUs)
  4. ODP Regional Offices Questions about this announcement may be directed here


Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) UPDATE: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Modifications to Medication Administration Course Requirements as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic

ODP Announcement 20-114 informs stakeholders that due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, staff can continue to take the Modified Course in place of the Standard Course until December 31, 2021. Also, the Department previously required that staff who took the Modified Course in lieu of the Standard Course complete the Standard Course no later than June 30, 2021. Please be advised that this deadline has been extended to December 31, 2022.

Beginning July 1, 2021, staff who have completed the initial requirements to begin administering medications using the Modified Course as above are required to complete additional medication administration observations and Medication Record Reviews as part of the Annual Practicum. This enhanced requirement applies to any staff who have at any time trained with the Modified Course and have not yet completed the Standard Course.

The enhanced Annual Practicum requirements are:

  1. Observations of staff administering medications must occur four times annually by a Certified Medication Administration Trainer or Qualified Medication Administration Practicum Observer. It is recommended that one medication administration observation be completed each quarter. Observations of the medication administrations may be conducted in-person or remotely using video telecommunication technology. Remote observation is encouraged to maintain social distancing; and
  2. Medication Record Reviews for the medication administrator must occur four times annually by a Certified Medication Administration Trainer or Qualified Medication Administration Practicum Observer. It is recommended that one Medication Record Review be completed each quarter. Medication Record Reviews of the medication administrations may be conducted in-person or remotely using video telecommunication technology. Remote reviews are encouraged whenever possible to maintain social distancing.

The full document, including frequently asked questions relating to medication administration requirements that were modified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, can be accessed here. These questions and responses apply to both new and current staff unless otherwise indicated.

The Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) is reminding providers of the importance of completing the 2020 Staff Stability Survey for your organization. We are particularly interested in having a robust response rate this year due to the impact of the pandemic on your workforce. We expect to use the data from this survey to help inform the rate-setting work.

If you are one of the 200 or so who have already completed the survey or determined that your agency is not eligible to complete it, thank you. There is nothing further to do. We have reached a statistically significant response but would like to have as many as possible in order to have the best data possible. Many providers have not yet clicked on the survey to open it or have started but not completed it.

Responses are due by Wednesday, June 30, 2021. You should have received an invitation and the personalized survey link from HSRI. Please be sure to check your spam folder or contact Rick Smith if you cannot locate the message. Thank you for your attention to this important survey.

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You may have received this information and related links already, but posting here for ease of access! HRSA continues to encourage providers to establish their PRF Reporting Portal accounts now by registering here. Registration will also allow providers to receive updates closer to the official opening of the portal for their reporting submissions.

HRSA landing page for reporting portal here.

PRF Reporting FAQs here. I found the FAQs extremely helpful and suggest you review before registering for the portal!

Provider Relief Fund General and Targeted Distribution Post-Payment Notice of Reporting Requirements (revised June 11, 2021).

Full “User Guide” available here.

Link to HHS resources and additional information here.

Donna Martin
American Network of Community Options and Resources
Alexandria, VA
(401) 965-9411

Join this webinar, hosted by the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities National Training Center (MHDD-NTC), to learn how unemployed individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism and traumatic brain injury, can benefit from a job in the workforce. The webinar will present instructional videos and case studies that illustrate how networking and mentorship can encourage independence among these individuals.

After attending the webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how work empowers individuals with mental health conditions and developmental disabilities;
  • Learn how service providers can locate and utilize resources in the community for competitive employment opportunities; and
  • Understand how workplace supports can increase job satisfaction and overall health.

This webinar will be held on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 from 2:00 pm–3:00 pm ET.

Visit here to register.


Please see the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that will apply to healthcare employers and additional OSHA guidance issued to protect workers in workplaces not subject to the ETS.

We had a number of calls asking about the ETS and to what businesses it applies. OSHA prepared this chart to help employers determine if they are subject to the ETS rule. Footnote number 1 is probably the most helpful part of the chart. In addition, the law firm of Troutman Pepper prepared an analysis, which may assist in determining whether your organization is subject to the ETS. We encourage anyone who is unsure whether the ETS applies to their organization to consult with legal counsel.

Attached is the most current Thresholds for Community Spread Report as described in Updated ODP Announcement 20-101.

Providers are responsible to review the report and make any necessary changes according to the status of their county. The publication of the Threshold for Community Spread Report will follow publication of DOH’s updated Dashboard numbers, which is available on Friday of each week.

A provider is expected to implement recommended operational status by the following Monday.

June’s Money Talks webinar will wrap up the series by discussing StudyMoney.us and Other Financial Education Resources for People with Disabilities — scheduled for Wednesday, June 23, 2021, from 1:00 pm–2:00 pm. Learn more and register here.

Join us to learn about StudyMoney.us, an exciting new financial education website for people with disabilities and families that makes learning about money management fun, effective, and engaging!

StudyMoney.us was originally created in 2017 as a companion to Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation’s book, Cents and Sensibility: A Guide to Money Management, the first comprehensive financial education curriculum developed specifically for people with disabilities. The newly rebuilt StudyMoney.us, launched in May 2021, features new content, a new look, full accessibility, and activities and quizzes to motivate and challenge learners.

Attendees will learn about:

  • The content covered in StudyMoney.us and why this information is important for the disability community;
  • How StudyMoney.us can best be used by both learners and instructors;
  • Fun, informative, and interactive activities available on StudyMoney.us;
  • Additional financial education resources available for both learners and instructors; and
  • A case study using StudyMoney.us and Cents and Sensibility with college students with disabilities.

This webinar is part of Money Talks, a free series hosted by Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation on financial empowerment for people with disabilities. If you are a person with a disability, a family member of someone who has a disability, an advocate, an educator, or a service provider, this series is for you. Sessions will include 30-45 minutes of interactive learning and 15 minutes for questions. Each session will be fully accessible, and recordings and slides will be made available.

Learn more, view previously recorded webinars, and register for this month’s webinar at PATF — MoneyTalks