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NORRISTOWN — The Montgomery County Intermediate Unit has been awarded a $7.2 million four-year grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

This highly competitive Project AWARE grant, for which the intermediate unit will receive $1.8 million a year for four years, has only been awarded to approximately 20 entities across the United States.

Project AWARE is a nationwide grant created to develop a sustainable infrastructure for school-based mental health programs and services. The intermediate unit provides programs and services to Montgomery County school districts, career and technical schools, non-public schools and other organizations. Through its direct service to students, especially those most at risk, the intermediate unit has been able to identify ways to assist students and their families to navigate mental health supports and services.

“This grant award is a major recognition for the MCIU and reflects all the hard work and accomplishments of our MCIU employees in supporting students and families across the region,” Executive Director Regina Speaker said in a press release issued by the Intermediate Unit. “We appreciate the support of Senator Robert Casey and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean and many other partners, including the Pennsylvania Department of Education, for this grant project.”

The grant project will: expand suicide awareness training opportunities for students(K-12), implement a universal mental health screener to be utilized by school district or nonpublic school staff members and create an electronic data system to connect school mental health practitioners (e.g. psychologists, social workers and counselors) with community-based mental health providers that have immediate availability to support students in all levels of care (outpatient therapy to inpatient psychiatric care).

The MCIU is partnering with two other intermediate units on this project — Luzerne and Carbon-Lehigh County Intermediate Units — to proactively address students’ mental health needs.

RCPA recommends members in the Montgomery County region engage with the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit and local school districts for planning and discussions on how your continuum of services may benefit student mental health in the schools.

If you have further questions, please contact RCPA Children’s Mental Health Director Jim Sharp.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) is making available $4 million in grant funding for organizations to establish or expand substance use disorder (SUD) services, community outreach and education to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

In 2020, overdose death rates increased 39 percent for black Pennsylvanians, compared to 2019. In 2021, black Pennsylvanians died from an overdose at a rate that was nearly two times higher than white Pennsylvanians.

Grants up to $400,000 each will be awarded for a 12-month period beginning July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024. Funds can be applied toward a range of activities, including construction and building infrastructure, staffing, and evidence-based programming.

Eligible applicants include organizations that provide services, outreach, and/or education to BIPOC communities in any of the following areas:

  • Harm reduction;
  • Access to low-barrier medications for opioid use disorder and SUD treatment;
  • Recovery and peer supports; and
  • Reentry supports.

Funding for these grants is provided from the opioid settlement funding that the General Assembly appropriated to DDAP.

Download the Grant Initiative Funding Application.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) today announced the availability of more than $4 million in grant funding for the establishment of regional recovery hubs to enhance recovery supports and promote recovery within communities across Pennsylvania.

The nine regional recovery hubs throughout Pennsylvania will be designed to work to embed, expand, and promote a recovery-oriented system of care in each region using a hub and spoke model. Each regional “hub” will support community-driven services that will serve as spokes. Each hub will provide technical assistance and collaborate with a variety of community entities, sectors, and systems to enhance a recovery-supportive community and facilitate recovery support service delivery.

For more information, read the Grant Initiative Funding Application or visit DDAP’s Funding and Grants Process web page.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) joined RCPA-member University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to announce that DDAP is awarding nearly $19 million in grant funding through its substance use disorder (SUD) loan repayment program. This program is aimed at aiding SUD treatment and case management professionals with repaying their outstanding qualifying educational loans.

More than 280 SUD practitioners, including case managers, counselors, licensed social workers, physician assistants, and registered nurses, were awarded the funding to go toward repaying their student loans. Of the total grant recipients, six are current UPMC employees, each receiving grants of up to $100,000 per person.

“We are thrilled that the administration is investing into helping and boosting the behavioral health care workforce,” said Noreen Fredrick, vice president of ambulatory and community behavioral health services for UPMC Western Behavioral Health and RCPA’s Chairperson-Elect. “Behavioral health workers have been at the forefront of addressing substance use disorders and saving lives. There are many ways in which UPMC is advocating for our employees, and programs like this will certainly help ease the heavy loan burden many clinicians obtain to do this important work.”

High rates of turnover and shortages of health care professionals have placed increased pressure on employee recruitment and retention, as well as access to care for Pennsylvania residents seeking SUD treatment and supports. Through this SUD loan repayment program, DDAP will provide loan repayment opportunities as an incentive to retain SUD practitioners willing to continue providing services within the commonwealth.

Candidates who were selected were required to demonstrate a minimum of two prior years of experience in the SUD field as well as agree to a service commitment of two additional years.

This funding opportunity is made possible from the Opioid Settlement Fund (McKinsey) and Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program Fund.

“The Wolf Administration remains committed to strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment and case management system across Pennsylvania and this loan repayment program is just one more example of that commitment,” said Secretary Jen Smith. “Easing the burden of student debt is paramount to helping incentivize SUD professionals to remain in this field, which in turn will benefit some of our loved ones, friends and neighbors who need SUD services most.”

Message from the Department of Human Services (DHS):

Harrisburg, PA — Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier and Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead today announced the Wolf Administration’s goal of using a $14 million federal grant to help Pennsylvanians with disabilities earning subminimum wage transition to competitive, integrated employment.

“Individuals with disabilities contribute their valuable skills, talents, time, energy and perspectives to Pennsylvania’s dynamic economy every day in professions and industries as diverse as our population. They deserve the same protections as all other workers, including the right to earn at least minimum wage for their work,” Secretary Berrier said. “The Wolf Administration will use this funding to help individuals with disabilities and their families learn about and take advantage of opportunities in competitive, integrated employment. There can and should be a role for everyone who wants to and is able to work, and we are grateful to those employers who have already committed to providing competitive, integrated employment.”

Pennsylvania is one of 14 states to receive grant awards from the federal Department of Education for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project. L&I’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and DHS’s Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) will use the funding to develop a five-year plan to support Pennsylvanians with disabilities in transitioning out of subminimum-wage employment — including more than 5,400 people who currently work in “sheltered workshops,” most of whom have intellectual disabilities or autism — as well as students and youth with disabilities seeking to enter competitive, integrated employment (CIE).

“There can be an end to the subminimum wage exception for individuals with disabilities, but it is incumbent on all of us to make that happen. Workplaces should examine their policies to see which ones are outdated or intentionally or unintentionally discriminating against individuals with disabilities,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism are vital members of our society and of our workforces, and DHS is proud to support opportunities to help them find gainful competitive integrated employment. We are grateful to the federal government for this grant so we can continue this work.”

The practice of paying individuals with disabilities subminimum wage is legal under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a federal law. In September 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for an end to subminimum wage in a report, saying that the program has been “inconsistent with the civil rights protections to which people with disabilities are entitled.” To date, several states have, or are in the process of, ending subminimum wage for people with disabilities or are in the process of phasing it out.

The federal grant will fund Pennsylvania’s Integrated Vocational Engagement and Supports Team (InVEST) Project, a wraparound model for assisting individuals with disabilities — including those considering or currently engaged in employment at subminimum wage — their families and employers, to move from subminimum wage employment to competitive, integrated employment.

The project aligns with the commonwealth’s Employment First philosophical approach that CIE be the first and preferred option and will enhance the commonwealth’s existing network of community rehabilitation service providers by allocating additional resources for staff who will work directly with CIE employers proactively engaged in supporting employees with disabilities and creating a culture of accommodation for all employees. These employer liaisons and employment specialists will be embedded with CIE employers to support employees with disabilities, facilitate communication, create a smooth hiring process, and provide on-the-job supports to ensure success. An interdisciplinary and collaborative resource team will anticipate and respond to the SWTCIE participants’ employment-related needs.

The Wolf Administration encourages all employers to consider learning more about this topic and becoming involved in Employment First, which requires any group receiving public funding to ensure that employment is the main focus for education, training, or support services for anyone with a disability who is eligible to work. Employers can explore opportunities to enhance their workforce by hiring people with disabilities who are invaluable members of our communities, workforce, and economy.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is accepting public comment on the Pennsylvania Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) application submission. This submission will occur in three parts: The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Assessment and Plan, or Mini-Application, which is currently available in draft and available for review; the SAPT Report, which will be posted in November; and the Annual Synar Report, which will be made available in December.

These documents can be accessed here utilizing “citizenpa” as your login and “citizen” as your password.

To review the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Plan Mini-Application:

  1. From the “Welcome to WebBGAS” page, click on “View an Existing Application.”
  2. On the next page, select “2023 SABG Only Application/Behavioral Health Assessment and Plan.” (The status of this application is shown as “In Progress.”)
  3. On the next page, click “View Application.”
  4. All of the links on the following page — “Pennsylvania – FY 2022-2023 SABG Only Application/Behavioral Health Assessment and Plan Submitted” — comprise the Mini-Application now open to public comment. Some components may read as “In progress” at this point, because they are still incomplete or may not be completed if they are not required.

Please submit all comments electronically by Friday, September 30.