Authors Posts by Jim Sharp

Jim Sharp

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The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) has released guidance information confirming that OMHSAS programs are indeed in Phase 1A of Pennsylvania’s Interim Vaccination Plan for providers who are seeking to obtain vaccinations for their programs. While this particular response focuses on the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program as a pathway to vaccinations, we are recommending that providers seek all available options that include federally-qualified health centers (FQHC’s), hospital and regional health systems, and county boards of health.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has made available a map of vaccine providers to assist your efforts. Please contact your RCPA policy director for any assistance you may need in your efforts. RCPA will continue to update its members on any changes in the plan.

OMHSAS Guidance

In order to facilitate vaccine distribution across Pennsylvania, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order on December 30, 2020 directing that at least ten percent of each vaccine shipment to hospitals, health systems, federally-qualified health centers, and pharmacies (collectively called “vaccine providers”) be designated for non-hospital affiliated health-care personnel who would otherwise be included in Phase 1A of Pennsylvania’s Interim Vaccination Plan, which was updated on Friday, January 8, 2021.

Health-care personnel as defined in Phase 1A include:

  • Physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, emergency medical service personnel, direct support professionals (in-home and community-based services and adult day facilities), staff of long-term care facilities that have residents prioritized in 1A, staff in residential care providers serving children, pharmacists, clinical personnel in school settings or correctional facilities, and contractual staff working in but not employed by the health-care facility. People who are not involved in patient care but who could be exposed to COVID-19 through careers in dietary services, environmental services, laundry services, security, maintenance, facilities management, and other administrative services as defined in the Interim Vaccination Plan are also included.

Long-term care facility staff are considered health-care personnel above, and long-term care facility residents are also in Phase 1A. Long-term care facilities as defined in Phase 1A include:

  • Skilled nursing facilities, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, private intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities, community group homes, residential treatment facilities for adults, long-term structured residences, state veterans homes, state centers, private psychiatric hospitals, and state hospitals.

The Department of Health recently released a map of vaccine providers who can administer a COVID-19 vaccine to anyone covered by Phase 1A. Anyone covered under Phase 1A who has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine can contact any of these providers to check availability and schedule their vaccination, but we encourage providers to contact sites and coordinate for their employees who are eligible. Employees should be prepared to show proof of employment. This map is being updated regularly, so please keep checking for new locations with vaccine supply and available appointments.

Long-term care facility staff and residents may be eligible for the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. The Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program is currently prioritizing skilled nursing facilities at this time. If your facility is enrolled in the program, CVS and Walgreens may have already reached out to schedule a vaccination date with you. However, if your facility has not already scheduled a vaccination date with CVS or Walgreens, you are encouraged to contact your local vaccine provider. The Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Health are also working together on additional solutions to expedite vaccine distribution to DHS-licensed facilities. Please keep track of who in your facility has already received a vaccine.

As vaccine supply is limited, it may take some time to find a vaccination provider and appointment. Thank you for your patience through this process, and most importantly, thank you for being united in our collective fight against COVID-19.

A Colourful 3d Rendered Concept Illustration showing Training written on a Blackboard

The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) is continuing to offer virtual Mandated Reporter Training at no cost to mandated reporters in Pennsylvania.

This three-hour virtual training is approved by the Departments of Human Services, Education, and State. It meets all requirements for training on recognizing and reporting child abuse (to include Act 126 for school employees).

The training is also approved for continuing education credits under Act 31 (Department of State for health-related licenses) and Act 48 (Department of Education for teachers) at no cost. PFSA will submit your training verification to the appropriate department on your behalf (details will be provided during training).

Please register for your preferred training date and time here.

Each person must log in through a separate device, using the unique access link emailed to them after registration to receive credit.

If you have questions or wish to schedule a session specifically for your organization, please email PFSA.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Human Services Licensing Administration is continuing to process your Certificates of Compliance as quickly and efficiently as possible. Since March 2020, we have been working remotely with limited access to the office. We receive mail two days per week. Therefore, the processing of renewal applications has been affected. We are issuing the renewal licenses prior to expiration of your current license; however, you may not receive it until the month before it expires.

To expedite the process, you will be receiving your Certificate of Compliance electronically. It is being sent to the email address(es) noted on your renewal application. If changes to your email address(es) are needed at any time throughout the year, please contact Linnette Bidelspach.

The Human Services Provider Directory is also updated when the Certificate of Compliance is emailed. It can be found by searching the name of your home on this website.

If you do not receive your renewal Certificate of Compliance and it is not on the provider directory by the date your license expires, it may be that we have not received your renewal application and/or renewal application fee. At that time, call Linnette Bidelspach at 717-705-6954 for an update.

Please keep in mind that the licensing administration is not able to answer specific questions regarding the Civil Rights Compliance Questionnaire. The regional offices of the Bureau of Equal Opportunity should be contacted with questions concerning the Civil Rights Compliance Questionnaire. The Bureau of Equal Opportunity is requesting that the Civil Rights Compliance Questionnaires be sent to the email address for the region in which the home is located. The contact information for each region and the links for each region’s email address can be found below:

Southeast Region (Note – The mailing address and telephone number have changed, and they are the same as the Central/Northern Region.)

Central/Northern Region

DHS BEO Central/Northern/Southeast Region
Room 225
Health & Welfare Building
PO Box 2675
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2675
Phone: (717)-787-1127

Western Region

DHS BEO Western Region
Suite 410, Platt Place
301 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1210
Phone: (412)-565-7607

CERTIFICATION CONCEPT

The Pennsylvania Certification Board (PCB) has announced that beginning on January 15, 2021, the Certified Peer Specialist examination will be offered in an on-demand online format. Please see this webpage for details.

If there are any questions regarding this announcement, please contact:

  • Alissa Bradley at 717-540-4455 Extension 102
  • Terri Wray at 717-540-4455 Extension 104. Terry schedules examinations once applications are approved.

PCB is excited to announce that beginning on January 15, 2021, the following examinations will be offered in an on-demand online format:

  • Certified Peer Specialist
  • Certified Recovery Specialist
  • Family-Based Therapy
  • Certified Allied Addiction Practitioner

Also beginning in 2021, in-person examinations will be limited to scheduled regional locations throughout the Commonwealth. Counselor, clinical supervisor, and prevention examinations are not available for on-demand online examinations or in-person regional examinations. Applicants for those credentials will need to schedule an examination at an approved examination site. Once approved to take an on-demand online examination, candidates can take the examination on an on-demand basis on any computer (desktop or laptop computers only; no cell phones or tablets may be used) if they meet all of the requirements listed below. No exceptions will be made.

  1. Reliable high-speed internet (not hotspot)
  2. Computer with quality webcam and microphone
  3. A valid ID with a picture will be required to show prior to the examination. Examples of valid IDs include state-issued ID card, driver’s license, passport, work ID, and/or college/university ID.
  4. Google Chrome web browser
  5. Proctorio Extension – instructions for download will be provided upon approval
  6. Private and interruption-free area to take the examination

More information on Proctorio and downloading the extension is located in the PCB Online Examination Guide. An update about the recovery specialist curriculum and learner applications will follow soon! Examinations for both the 54-hour training and the examination based on the standardized curriculum will be available in the on-demand online format. Please watch your inboxes for more information.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) is committed to ensuring that children, youth, and young adults receive appropriate behavioral health services to meet their individual needs and that they do so in settings that provide the best opportunity for accomplishing their documented treatment goals.

OMHSAS has been contacted by some families and service providers about the availability of 1:1 center-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provided by a licensed Intensive Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) agency and medical assistance payment for these services. The IBHS regulations and OMHSAS guidance allow medical assistance payment when group services are provided in a center-based community-like setting. Group services may include individual interventions that address the therapeutic needs of the child, youth, or young adult. As a result, payment for 1:1 ABA services that are provided as a component of group services is allowed pursuant to the IBHS regulations. OMHSAS expects that most center-based services are provided as part of group services as many of the comments that we received emphasized the importance of children developing group learning skills and interacting with peers.

In addition, when it is determined to be medically necessary and clinically appropriate, medical assistance will pay for ABA services provided in a community-like center-based setting. OMHSAS will release guidance on when it would be appropriate for a child, youth, or young adult to receive 1:1 ABA services in a center-based setting in the near future.

There also seems to be concern that the IBHS regulations prevent 1:1 center-based services even if medical assistance will not be paying for the services. The IBHS regulations do not address payment by commercial insurance for 1:1 center-based services, and licensed IBHS agencies may continue to provide these services and bill commercial insurance.

We appreciate the concern raised by families and providers who have communicated with our office and recognize that changes to program regulations and design can create uncertainty about continuity of care. The changes our office is implementing are designed to ensure that services are meeting minimum licensing standards, provided by qualified staff, and have regular oversight to ensure the wellbeing and safety of the children and youth we serve.

RCPA is preparing a response to the statement in advance of guidance that OMHSAS will be communicating in the near future.