Authors Posts by Jim Sharp

Jim Sharp


Community mental health and substance use treatment organizations can address one of the nation’s highest priorities — the youth mental health crisis — by collaborating with schools and school systems to provide school-based integrated health care.

To help organizations better partner with schools, the School-Based Health Alliance (SBHA) and the Center of Excellence for Integrated Health Solutions (CoE-IHS) created “Partnering With Schools to Improve Youth Mental Health: A Resource for Community Mental Health and Substance Use Care Organizations.”

Join us on September 26, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET, for Integration with Schools: The Key to the Youth Mental Health Crisis. This webinar will review the key considerations and resources highlighted in the new guide to help integrated care organizations gather what they need to initiate and advance their partnerships with schools and address the youth mental health crisis.

September is FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder) Awareness Month. This is an expansion of FASD Awareness Day that has been held each year on September 9 since 1999. People all around the world gather for events to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy and the challenges of individuals and families living with FASD. The first awareness day was celebrated on September 9, 1999; this day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, the world will remember that during the nine months of pregnancy, the safest option is to abstain from alcohol.

We hope you will take the time to review this month’s FASD Newsletter and share with your networks. RCPA wishes to highlight FASD Month for its members to bring awareness, education, and advocacy to this critical issue affecting children and families. If you have any questions or want to assist in promoting FASD Month, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.

March to Promote Increased Funding for Mental Health Initiatives

We are just days away from the March on Harrisburg, and we cannot wait to advocate alongside you and our partner stakeholders on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, on the Capitol steps at 10:30 am. The t-shirts will be green, and while we would love to have enough to go around, there is a chance we will not. Everyone is hearing the call, and the number of registrants has grown in the past week! Please consider wearing green if you have it!

Please review the agenda for the day as well as march logistics regarding getting to Harrisburg, parking, and the march route. We have some amazing and inspirational speakers joining us, including Rep. Mike Schlossberg, as we all come together and raise our voices for a united message.

The flyer includes information for registering. Registration is for planning purposes as well as to help us understand how we can better support our CSPs and individuals who may need assistance with transportation. Everyone is encouraged to join us on the day of the event, even if you do not register. We encourage you to register here. You can also follow the Facebook event page for more information.

We look forward to seeing you at the March on Harrisburg on Wednesday, September 27 at 10:30 am. If you have any questions or need to make arrangements to attend, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.

In 2008, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published the ACT Evidence-Based Practices KIT (hereinafter referred to as SAMHSA’s 2008 ACT Toolkit), a toolkit to help mental health agencies and teams implement ACT. The toolkit also includes information on fidelity: the extent to which an intervention is delivered as conceived. Both the toolkit and fidelity tools have received widespread use throughout the United States, and ACT principles remain consistent with the 2008 publication.

However, there is growing interest in extending ACT to certain populations and settings, including youth, justice-involved clients, immigrants and refugees, and rural communities. Driven by a need to deliver contextually responsive and culturally relevant services, these extensions often necessitate modifications, making it especially important to monitor fidelity. Research consistently demonstrates that higher fidelity to the ACT model produces better outcomes.

This follow-up and companion product Maintaining Fidelity to ACT: Current Issues and Innovations in Implementation reviews ACT principles, summarizes contemporary issues impacting ACT teams, and examines aspects of ACT implementation when extending the model to specific populations and settings. The goal of this guide is to ensure continued efficacy of ACT by reaffirming its principles while promoting awareness of new developments that providers may want to consider when implementing the model.

RCPA will be following up with the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) on the implementation and the integration of the new toolkit. If you have any questions, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.

Young Girl Talking With Counselor At Home

The Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth and Families (PA OCYF) has announced  that the Pennsylvania 5-Year Prevention Plan for the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was officially approved by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on August 15, 2023. This marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to enhance and strengthen our state’s child welfare and family support systems. This also brings to a close a two-year approval process toward the plan, which outlines the comprehensive framework that Pennsylvania will implement to fulfill the requirements and goals set forth by the Family First Prevention Services Act. This legislation seeks to prioritize family-based services aimed at preventing the unnecessary placement of children in foster care, promoting family stability, and improving overall outcomes for vulnerable children and families.

The effective dates of the Pennsylvania 5-year Prevention Plan for FFPSA will be from October 1, 2021, to October 1, 2026. As Pennsylvania moves forward with the implementation of this plan, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA DHS) is excited about the positive impact it will have on the lives of Pennsylvania’s children and families. PA OCYF acknowledges the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders, including partner agencies, community organizations, and dedicated professionals who have contributed to the development of this comprehensive strategy.

Should you have any inquiries or require further information regarding the approved Prevention Plan, its strategies, or the implementation timeline, please do not hesitate to visit Pennsylvania’s Family First website or submit an inquiry through the Pennsylvania Specific Family First Questions Form.

OCYF Leadership will be on the RCPA Children’s Division Meeting on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, at 1:00 pm and will cover this and other topics. If you have questions or feedback, please contact RCPA Mental Health Policy Director Jim Sharp.

On behalf of the RCPA Community Residential Rehabilitation (CRR) service providers and the individuals of Pennsylvania that they serve, RCPA submits our CRR Regulatory Reform Recommendations to the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). The current lack of access to care is a result of the workforce crisis and operational requirements of implementing the regulations. We feel these access issues and individuals waiting for services are compelling reasons, in the interest of the public, to merit a review of the regulations based on section 8.1 of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P.S. § 745.8a).

The COVID-19 DHS regulatory flexibilities provided relief for providers, and OMHSAS continues to offer waivers to agencies experiencing critical staffing shortages. Providers are grateful for these temporary solutions; however, these waivers do not address the long-term impacts of the current regulatory requirements. Providers continue to struggle to hire qualified staff and contend with burdensome operational requirements, many of which negatively contribute to the efficiency of care delivery. Therefore, many of the guidelines that were allowed under the suspension of regulations and frequent waiver requests are incorporated into recommendations for permanent improvements to the regulations.

Our recommendations place focus on the care of the individuals and address the challenges and barriers CRR service providers have faced in creating the staffing infrastructures and meeting the burdensome operational protocols for regulatory compliance. The overreaching nature of the regulations, coupled with the impact of the pandemic, has caused great strain on an already depleted behavioral health workforce. These system stressors limit the ability to provide vital, quality services to individuals. Under current regulations, programs are forced to focus on administrative details that do not have a meaningful effect on the actual care of the individual.

These CRR Regulatory Recommendations will also be directed to the Governor’s Policy Office, the Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Arkoosh, and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

RCPA would like to thank the members of the CRR Regulatory Review team for their focused and diligent efforts to make this submission possible. If you have any questions, please contact RCPA Policy Director Jim Sharp.