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.

The 2021 RCPA Conference, Leading in 2021: Hope, Help, Heal, will tentatively be held as a hybrid event (September 28 – October 1). 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.

This is a friendly reminder for the next OMHSAS Provider/Provider Affiliate/Advocate/Consumer/Family Member Stakeholder Meeting. It is scheduled for Tuesday, February 16, 2021 from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

This webinar will be directed to providers, provider associations, and consumers/family members/advocate stakeholders. The next webinar for counties and county affiliates is scheduled for Friday, February 12, 2021 from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm. We ask stakeholders to join in only one monthly meeting; they should choose the meeting that will best suit their interests.

Please register for the OMHSAS Provider/Advocate Stakeholder Meeting.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email that contains information about joining the webinar.

innovaTel Telepsychiatry is sponsoring the first ever shark tank competition at this year’s National Council for Behavioral Health Conference. They are looking for organizations who have used technology in innovative ways with behavioral health and addiction treatment. Finalists will be presenting in front of a panel of industry leaders, and the winner will receive $10,000! This is a great chance to get your innovation in front of a national audience and a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000. Submissions are due by February 19, 2021, so please spread the word. You can learn how to submit your ideas by visiting this webpage.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) updated living guidance on the clinical management of COVID-19 is available online here. This is an update to the previous interim guidance, which was published on May 27, 2020. Here are some highlights that are relevant for mental health, substance use, and neurological disorders in this version:

  • The foreword and summary assert the importance of basic psychosocial support for all COVID-19 cases.
  • The background section is now expanded with two prominent paragraphs on mental and neurological manifestations.
  • The symptoms/characterization of COVID-19 now detail neurological manifestations (Table 6.1).
  • Risk factors associated with severe COVID-19 now include mental disorders and dementia (Table 6.2).
  • Chapter 17 (Neurological and Mental Manifestations) is revised with an expanded background section, an additional recommendation and remark on strokes, and an additional remark on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)/trauma.
  • Chapter 24 (new chapter: Care of COVID-19 Patients After Acute Illness) includes mental and neurological symptoms persisting after acute illness that have emerged from the literature thus far.

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Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

The Venango Training and Development Center, Inc. (VTDC) is providing a Veterans Fairweather Lodge Request for Proposals (RFP) Technical Assistance Zoom session on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 2:00 pm for providers interested in submitting applications.  Colleen Stuart, VTDC CEO; Randy Loss, OMHSAS; Joel Mutschler, DMVA; Kim Stucke, Fairweather Lodge/Housing Consultant; Susanna Giesey, VTDC CPO and Coalition for Community Living Board Member; and Tammy Messinger, VTDC CFO will field questions and provide additional information to applicants.

Please join the Zoom session here.

Meeting ID: 930 8884 0632

Passcode: 299504

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Dial By Your Location:

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  • +1-312-626-6799 US (Chicago)
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Meeting ID: 930 8884 0632

Passcode: 299504

Find your local number here.

From the PA Mental Health Planning Council (MHPC) and the PA Advocates for Whole Health and Wellness:

In response to a discussion during the most recent Mental Health Planning Council (MHPC) meeting, which identified the need for real-time information regarding the impact COVID-19 has had on behavioral health services and persons in recovery in Pennsylvania, a group of MHPC participants and the PA Advocates for Whole Health and Wellness developed the attached surveys. They are interested in understanding the needs of mental and behavioral health and substance use providers, individuals in recovery, and families in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individuals, agencies, and county agencies will be asked to answer some questions about mental/behavioral health and substance use services, barriers, needs, and any positive experiences. Please be assured that all responses will be kept completely confidential and will be reported as combined group information except for individual testimonials, which will be used without any identifying information being revealed or collected. Both surveys ask respondents to please describe their experiences with access to and involvement with treatment services since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020.

Either survey should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. If you would like more information about these surveys, or if you are interested in providing a testimonial of your experiences, please email this contact.

Please distribute these links to whoever you can, including to all listservs, all individuals accessing treatment services, all county agencies, and all service providers. We would appreciate every effort to capture as many persons in recovery, county agencies, and service providers as possible in order for us to be able to provide generalizable results. The information from these surveys will be compiled into a report, which will be available to government agencies, providers, county agencies, respondents, and any others who are interested in ensuring that responses to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic meet the currents needs. Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of the report can make a request here.

Please keep in mind that all survey collectors will be closed on February 12, 2021 at the close of business. The completed report will be distributed at the Mental Health Planning Council meeting on February 23, 2021 and will be available for wider distribution after that date.

There are two different survey links below:

Our data collection efforts absolutely involve your participation! On behalf of all of those individuals and agencies involved in drafting the surveys and those who will benefit from the data collected here, we thank you.

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

Please Note: Zoom video capability is needed to attend all trainings listed.

This training is available for Pennsylvania residents only!


February 17, 2021 • 8:30 am – 4:00 pm

This six-hour virtual training package has been adapted[i] by a collaborative practice group[ii] specifically for peer support practitioners (certified peer specialists, certified recovery specialists, and family peers). The class will consist of a mixture of slides, discussions, and interactive exercises. It includes a participant manual that will be sent to the address on your registration.

There are four parts to the slide presentation, Understanding Trauma for Peer Practitioners:

  • Part 1: “What is Trauma and Who is Affected?”
  • Part 2: “How Does the Stress Response System Work?”
  • Part 3: “What is the Impact of Exposure to Trauma?”
  • Part 4: “What Does This Mean for Peers and Communities?”

At the end of each part, there is time for discussion or activities related to the concepts discussed in that section.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand trauma in a broad and inclusive way;
  • Learn how the brain and body respond to stress and trauma;
  • Recognize the effects of trauma;
  • Apply trauma knowledge to your daily work; and
  • Understand the concept of trauma sensitive response and the core principles of trauma-informed care.

[i] Adapted from Guarino, K. and Chagnon, E. (2018). Trauma-Sensitive Schools Training Package. Washington, DC: National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. This resource is available free of charge at this link.

[ii] Members of the practice group included representatives from the Pennsylvania Community of Practice on Trauma-Informed Care, the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, the Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition, Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Youth MOVE PA, Drexel University, Georgetown University, Community Care Behavioral Health, PA Care Partnership, and the National Association of Directors of Special Education.

Register here.

 **You MUST be able to be on camera In Zoom for the duration of the training!**