Commonwealth Receives Federal Funding for Long-Term Services and Supports, Crisis Intervention for Individuals With Intellectual Disabilities and Autism

PA Department of Human Services

HARRISBURG, PA — The Department of Human Services (DHS) announced that Pennsylvania will receive an estimated $12 million in federal reimbursement funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for the Money Follows the Person Program, which helps people with disabilities and older adults live in a community-based living situation of their choice while continuing to receive long-term services and supports. Additionally, Pennsylvania will receive funding to increase supports for individuals with an intellectual disability or autism and a co-occurring mental illness who are experiencing crisis.

“DHS is committed to providing the highest level of care possible at all times but protecting our most vulnerable neighbors is a collective effort. We are thankful that our federal partners know that this funding will help us in improving services so we can ensure that all Pennsylvanians will have an improved quality of life,” said DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead.

Money Follows the Person (MFP) program provides the state with the financial flexibility to allow the needed services to “follow the person” as older Pennsylvanians and those with a disability transition from an institutional setting back into the community. Pennsylvania has been reimbursed an estimated $169 million to help fund waiver services and long-term services and supports, as well as administrative activities. MFP funds have been used to build sustainable projects such as affordable housing options for seniors, education and outreach to those who are interested in obtaining employment, support for telehealth, and training for nursing facilities across the state. MFP has helped to transition more than 4,000 individuals into the community since 2008.

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Additionally, $5 million in CMS funding will support the Office of Developmental Programs’ (ODP) and the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ (OMHSAS) implementation of the START (Systemic, Therapeutic, Assessment, Resources, and Treatment) Program and a separate initiative to increase awareness for trauma related issues for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism have experienced unprecedented levels of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This stress, coupled with increased isolation and a change in services for many individuals, may have exacerbated preexisting or unresolved trauma issues, putting this already-vulnerable population at higher risk for hospitalization or additional traumatizing experiences. These individuals require a high level of specialized skill in treatment, but current gaps in the systems of care for behavioral and mental health needs, as well as for intellectual disabilities and autism, mean there are limited provider supports that can adequately address these needs.

START PA is a community-based program that provides crisis intervention services for these individuals. This program will train mental healthcare providers who work with this population on trauma-informed approaches to enhance resilience from stress and promote recovery. START PA will build upon existing community infrastructures to provide clinical interventions to people with an intellectual disability or autism and co-occurring mental illness who are in crisis. The START PA teams’ services will build community partnerships, offer clinical consultation and training to professionals, provide education and training to community/family members, and deliver mobile crisis supports for individuals enrolled in services.

The START model has resulted in significant improvement in mental health symptoms of participants as well as significant decreases in psychiatric hospitalizations and emergency department visits one year after the program’s implementation in other states. This funding will support the START PA program for three years.

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