Authors Posts by Sarah Eyster

Sarah Eyster

Ms. Eyster represents the association at state-level meetings and serves as staff liaison to the Mental Health Committee. She is responsible for member communication of, and the analysis of, Department of Human Services and other key policy decisions.

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Photo by Hannah Skelly on Unsplash

In 2016, the Office of Mental Health provided funding and partnered together with three providers to offer homeless veterans the opportunity to live, gain employment, and work on their recovery through this evidence-based model. The initial grant funded the startup of four new lodges. This year, through Money Follows the Person grant funding, there is an opportunity to fund a new Veteran’s Fairweather Lodge (VFWL). As the contracted administrative agency, the Venango Training & Development Center, Inc. is coordinating the request for proposals (RFP) process and working with the Office of Mental Health to expand this project.

As a mental health non-profit provider, your agency has been identified to receive information regarding an opportunity for startup grant funding for a new VFWL. Included here is a Startup Guide and Application Tool, which includes the following information that will assist in your application:

  • History and Background Information
  • Provider Eligibility/Background Requirements
  • Guidelines for Application
  • State/County/Community Partnerships
  • Grant Resources

Data research has identified that there is a population of homeless veterans in need of these services. Please review the information provided and consider this wonderful opportunity to provide support to veterans in need. Upon review, if you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to the identified contacts listed here. Based upon provider response, a global technical assistance webinar may be scheduled.


Photo by SOUVIK ROY on Unsplash

Human trafficking is a widespread crime and a growing public health concern. This crime occurs when force, fraud, or coercion are used to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor services against their will.

Because fighting this crime requires bilateral and regional cooperation for the prevention, assistance, and protection of trafficked persons, a two-day summit will be held for representatives of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to share best practices, learn from survivor experts, and explore multidisciplinary approaches to regional partnerships.

The goal of the summit is to lead multilateral cooperation and synergy among these states as we work to ensure the safety and freedom of trafficked persons. Please register here to attend.

The 2021 RCPA Conference, Leading in 2021: Hope, Help, Heal, will tentatively be held as a hybrid event. As the COVID-19 pandemic permits, it will take place both at the Hershey Lodge as well as virtually. Since this is a premier statewide event, the Conference Committee is seeking workshop proposals for possible inclusion. The conference offers diverse educational opportunities, and submissions are needed in every area. A complete listing of focus tracks is available on the proposal form. Last year, many submissions were unable to be utilized due to the pandemic and the shift from an in-person to virtual format.

Presentations that assist providers in developing and maintaining quality, effective treatments, services, and agencies in an industry where change is constant are encouraged. The committee looks for presentations which:

  • Highlight new policy, research, and treatment initiatives;
  • Provide specific skills and information related to individual and organizational leadership development and enhancement;
  • Address system changes that affect business practices such as value-based purchasing; and
  • Offer concrete skills and tools to operate more efficient, effective agencies in a pandemic and post-pandemic arena.

Workshop ideas for 2021 include:

  • Strategies for Effective Teleintervention;
  • Assessing Abuse and Neglect in a Virtual Encounter;
  • The Impact of the Pandemic on Child Welfare/Abuse/Neglect;
  • Coping with Grief and Loss;
  • Preventing/Mitigating Provider Burnout;
  • Family and Caregiver Engagement;
  • Strategies to Combat the Impact of Screen-Time Fatigue (Telework, Virtual School, Virtual Socialization);
  • DEI Topics – Assessing Implicit Bias, Overcoming Implicit Bias, How to Develop a DEI Plan;
  • The PH-BH Interface – Finding Common Ground to Treat the Whole Person;
  • Ongoing Workforce Shortage Solutions;
  • The Changing Health-Care Landscape During and Post Pandemic;
  • Managing Human Capital/Resources Virtually;
  • Integrated Care Strategies for Implementation and Reimbursement;
  • Managed Care Models for People with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities;
  • Remote Services/Use of Technology in all Types of Support Services for Individuals with IDD;
  • Ethics Topics Across the Membership;
  • Emergency Planning for Community Violence;
  • Acquisitions/Mergers and Consolidations;
  • Value-Based Purchasing; and
  • Employing People with Disabilities.

The committee welcomes any proposal that addresses these and other topics essential to the rehabilitation, mental health, addiction, children’s, aging, intellectual and developmental disability, and physical disability communities. Members are encouraged to consider submitting proposals and to forward this opportunity to those who are exceptionally good speakers and who have state-of-the-art information to share.

The Call for Proposals and accompanying “Guidelines for Developing Educational Objectives” outline requirements for submissions. The deadline for submissions is Monday, February 22 at 5:00 pm. Proposals must be submitted electronically to Sarah Eyster on the form provided. Confirmation of receipt will be sent. Proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

Proposals selected stand out by inclusion of solid learning objectives, information that a participant can use to enhance professional skills or methods, and ability to engage a diverse and advanced audience. If the proposal is accepted, individuals must be prepared to present on any day of the conference. Workshops are 60–75 minutes in length for a single session or 120–150 minutes in length for a double session. At the time of acceptance, presenters will be required to confirm the ability to submit workshop handouts electronically four weeks prior to the conference.

Individuals are welcome to submit multiple proposals. Notification of inclusion will be made via email by May 10. Questions may be directed to Sarah Eyster, Conference Coordinator.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to state health officials designed to drive the adoption of strategies that address the social determinants of health (SDOH) in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) so that states can further improve beneficiary health outcomes, reduce health disparities, and lower overall costs in Medicaid and CHIP. SDOH describe the range of social, environmental, and economic factors that can influence health status—conditions that can often have a greater impact on health outcomes than the actual delivery of health services. The new guidance describes how states can leverage existing flexibilities under federal law to tackle adverse health outcomes that can be impacted by SDOH. It also supports states in designing programs, benefits, and services that can more effectively improve population health and reduce the cost of caring for our nation’s most vulnerable and high-risk populations.

The United States spends more on health care than almost any other country yet often underperforms on key health indicators, including life expectancy, reducing chronic heart disease, and maternal and infant mortality rates. According to the CMS Office of the Actuary, national health spending is projected to grow rapidly and reach $6.2 trillion by 2028. For its part, in 1985, Medicaid spending consumed less than 10 percent of state budgets and totaled just over $33 billion dollars. In 2019, that number had grown to consume 29 percent of total state spending at a total cost of $604 billion dollars.[1]

To address the contradiction between rising costs and low health outcomes, CMS has committed to accelerating the industry’s shift from traditional fee-for-service payment models to value-based models that hold clinicians accountable for cost and quality. As part of its continued efforts to advance value-based care, CMS recently issued guidance to state Medicaid directors to encourage the incorporation of value-based strategies across their health-care systems, allowing states to provide Medicaid beneficiaries with efficient, high-quality care while lowering cost and improving health outcomes. The guidance also noted that the adoption of value-based care arrangements could better provide opportunities for states to address SDOH as well as disparities across the health-care system.

“The evidence is clear: social determinants of health, such as access to stable housing or gainful employment, may not be strictly medical, but they nevertheless have a profound impact on people’s wellbeing,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Unfortunately, our fee-for-service system inherently limits the doctor-patient relationship to what can be accomplished inside the four walls of a clinician’s office. Today’s letter to state health officials highlights strategies by which states can promote a value-based system that fosters treatment of the whole person and lowers health-care costs. Patients are more than a bundle of medical diagnoses, and it’s time our health-care system treated them as such.”

With the release of today’s SDOH guidance, CMS acknowledges that an understanding of the social, economic, and environmental factors that affect the health outcomes of Medicaid and CHIP populations can be an integral component of states’ efforts to realign incentives, reduce costs, and advance value-based care in their health systems.

The guidance recognizes that Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries face challenges related to SDOH, including but not limited to access to nutritious food, affordable and accessible housing, quality education, and opportunities for meaningful employment.

Growing evidence indicates that these challenges can lead to poorer health outcomes for beneficiaries and higher health-care costs for Medicaid and CHIP programs. They can also exacerbate health disparities for a broad range of populations, including individuals with disabilities, older adults, pregnant women, children and youth, individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders, and individuals living in rural communities.

SDOH can affect health-care utilization and cost, health outcomes, and health disparities. For example, the on-going COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-understood disparities in health outcomes among low-income populations, particularly children. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data indicate that counties with greater social vulnerability, including high poverty rates and crowded housing units, were more likely to become COVID-19 hotspots, potentially putting those who experience economic and housing constraints at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Additionally, with many schools closed for in-person learning due to COVID-19 restrictions, some low-income children have less access to free non-academic supports that affect their health and well-being, including food assistance, counseling services, and homelessness and maltreatment interventions. According to CMS’s own data, some children are also forgoing key services they might receive such as child screens and vaccinations prior to the start of the school year or in-school services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, demonstrating the influence that social networks and physical environment can have on children’s health.

Current research indicates that some social interventions targeted at Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries can result in improved health outcomes and significant savings to the health-care sector. These investments can also prevent or delay beneficiaries needing nursing facility care by offering services to facilitate community integration and participation and help keep children on normative developmental trajectories in education and social skills.

The SDOH guidance details how state Medicaid and CHIP programs can utilize a variety of delivery approaches, benefits, and reimbursement methodologies to improve beneficiary outcomes. States can use different federal authorities that can provide them with flexibility to design an array of services to address SDOH and that can be tailored, within the constraints of certain federal rules, to address state-specific policy goals and priorities, including the movement from volume-based payments to value-based care, and the specific needs of states’ Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries.

While states have flexibility to design a number of different services to address SDOH, the guidance focuses on a set of services and supports that states can cover under current law, including housing-related services and supports, non-medical transportation, home-delivered meals, educational services, and employment supports. CMS remains committed to partnering with states to address beneficiaries’ SDOH. When used in accordance with statutory and regulatory requirements, the Medicaid and CHIP programs are uniquely positioned to help states lower health-care costs, improve health outcomes, and increase the cost-effectiveness of health-care services and interventions for its beneficiaries.

CMS has placed an emphasis on addressing SDOH across all of its programs in its continued efforts to move toward a value-based model of care delivery.


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From National Council:

Dear National Council Members:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced that applications for FY21 Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) grants are now being accepted. The grants are available to community treatment providers in every state. Qualified applicants must be a CCBHC or be able to meet the requirements of a CCBHC within four months of receiving a grant. Applicants must be either a nonprofit or local government behavioral health authority.

Please note that CCBHC Expansion grant recipients who received funding under CCBHCs Expansion Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (SM-20-012 with funding announcements made in 2020) are not eligible to apply for funding under this FOA.

The National Council will host a questions and answers session on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) to share information about the CCBHC model and the funding opportunity announcement. Registration for this session can be completed here. In advance of this meeting, here are a few items we want to share:

  • $150 million in grant funding is available, which will fund an anticipated 74 organizations.
  • The amount of the grants will be $2 million per year for two years.
  • Applications are due on March 1, 2021.

We encourage interested organizations to apply for this opportunity. More information about the CCBHC model is available on our CCBHC Success Center website. Please feel free to reach out to our email contact with any questions.

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RCPA received notification that the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) will be holding the first provider/stakeholder/association meeting on January 19, 2021 at 3:00 pm, the same day as the RCPA County Mental Health (MH) Funding Meeting.

As a result, the RCPA County MH Funding Stakeholder Meeting has now been rescheduled for January 22, 2021 from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm.

If you previously registered for the January 19, 2021 County MH Funding Meeting, you do not need to re-register. If you would like to attend the meeting and have not yet registered, you can do so at this link.