Letter from ODP Deputy Secretary Kristin Ahrens:
May 17, 2021
One of Pennsylvania’s greatest resources in supporting the vision of an everyday life is its workforce, more specifically our dedicated Direct Service Professionals. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for so many people; impacting all facets of our society. The intellectual disability and autism community has been no exception, including the additional erosion of our workforce.
In the past many weeks, I have heard directly from you about the incredible strain that staffing shortages have placed on agencies. I want providers to know that we hear you and are actively working to alleviate pressure where we can without further compromising individual health and safety.
We recognize that it is not just your direct support workforce that is experiencing unprecedented strain but your entire organizations. To that end, several actions are being taken by the Office that may provide a measure of relief on your program management and clinical staff. These actions include:
- Postponing full implementation of the updated Incident Management process that requires a Department-certified investigator to complete investigations for reported abuse to an individual by another individual and incidents of injuries requiring treatment beyond first aid as a result of an accidental injury.
- Agencies unable to complete the Health Risk Screening Tool (HSRT) for all individuals receiving residential habilitation by the June 30, 2021 deadline will be asked to provide a plan for completion with the anticipated benchmark and completion timelines for their agency.
- ODP is extending the period in which the Modified Medication Administration Course can be used until December 31, 2021. ODP is also indefinitely extending the timeframe for those staff to be subsequently trained with the Standard Medication Administration Training Course.
Communications detailing the above changes will be issued over the next few weeks.
During this difficult time, I ask that you please remain in contact with ODP Regional Office staff and Administrative Entities for any concerns or questions regarding your agency’s level of staffing. We have asked Administrative Entities to facilitate discussions with providers to review all of the flexibilities available through Appendix K and regulatory suspensions to ensure that providers are able to maximize these flexibilities to address staffing shortages.
In the face of this challenge I remain optimistic; for I have seen the creativity, resiliency, and dedication demonstrated by the ID/A provider network during this pandemic.