Prepare to Meet With Your Supports Coordinator
Together, you and your supports coordinator will talk about your situation and your needs. Then, you will go through the
Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS) form and decide together what pertains to you.
First, you will be asked for general information, such as your name and where you live. One of the questions you will be asked is, "Date Person Went on Waiting List." This date is when you first requested support from the county and notified your supports coordinator of your need. This will most likely be an earlier date than the one used in "Date Form Completed."
You will be asked questions about your life to help to determine the appropriate category of need. If your needs cannot be met immediately, you will then be placed in the appropriate category on Waiting List for services.
Next, there is a section called "Supports and Services." Here you need to list the current supports you are receiving and also those that you will need in the future. You are not limited to the listed supports. You can add other things. In addition to the supports that you receive now that are funded and paid for by the intellectual disabilities system, you also need to include supports that are not funded by the system. These could be things in your community that you pay for yourself or with private insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is PUNS?
PUNS stands for the
Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services. The PUNS form gathers information about your situation, your needs (current and anticipated), and what services and supports you may need through the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs. The information is collected by each county's Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities (MH/ID) office, also called that county's Administrative Entity. The PUNS form describes how soon you will need services and supports. PUNS information helps the county and the state understand and plan for what you need, and when you will need it. PUNS information is entered into the state database, the Home and Community Services Information System (HCSIS). The PUNS form is a planning and information gathering tool. Completion of the PUNS does not mean your service needs can be met at the time you fill it out.
Who needs PUNS?
Regardless of whether you are enrolled in a waiver, you need a PUNS if:
You or a family member are in need of services and supports that you are not currently receiving.
You think you will need services and supports within the next five years.
Why should I complete a PUNS form?
The PUNS process helps the county and state understand and plan for your needs and how you relate to others waiting for services. It captures the supports and services you need that may be provided through the Office of Developmental Programs. The information on the form will help your supports coordinator and county/administrative entity understand and plan for your needs. The county and state use the information to create their upcoming annual budgets. It also tells the Office of Developmental Programs the types of supports people are waiting for in each county to help identify gaps in services and supports in specific areas. The Office of Developmental Programs uses PUNS data for planning and to explain people's needs to the Governor's Office and Legislative Budget Office. The advocacy community uses PUNS information to educate legislators about the needs of people with intellectual disabilities who are waiting for supports and services.
When do I complete a PUNS form?
After you register and are found eligible for intellectual disabilities services with your county program, you will meet with your supports coordinator to discuss your life situation and determine if you need to fill out a PUNS form. You and your supports coordinator will update your PUNS at least once every year for as long as you need a PUNS form. Anytime your needs change, you should contact your supports coordinator to update your PUNS form. If all your needs are met, and you are not waiting for any services and supports, you do not need a PUNS form.
How do I complete a PUNS form?
The PUNS is completed during a face-to-face meeting with your supports coordinator. You can invite other people to the meeting to help you (e.g. employer, advocate, provider, teacher, friend, family members, etc.). You need to review and discuss the areas of need on the form with your supports coordinator and decide which categories or selections apply to you. Next, you and your supports coordinator will fill in the information about what supports and services you are currently receiving, and what supports and services you need. It is important that your PUNS form accurately reflects your need, as it is used to help the county and state plan for your needs. Everyone at the meeting will sign the form. Your signature indicates participation only, not agreement.
What do the "Categories of Need" mean?
There are three categories of need:
Emergency means you need support immediately (within the next six months); An example of this is when there is a death in your family and there is no other family member available to provide support
Critical means you will need support within the next two years; If you have an aging or ill caregiver, who soon will be unable to continue providing support, you may belong in this category. Another example is when there has been a death or some other crisis in your family that reduces the capacity of the person who supports you.
Planning means that your need for supports or services is more than two years away but within the next five years. Examples of this are when you tell your Supports Coordinator that you would like to move to another place or you need increased supports
When considering all of the statements under each category of need, you should select all situations that apply to you. You can have more than one selection in each category. For example, you may have a caregiver who is ill and you may also be graduating high school in the next two years. Anticipated needs that are more than five years away are not captured through PUNS, but should be discussed with your supports coordinator.
Why does the "Emergency" category have two sections?
The emergency category is broken into two parts:
- The first part is for people who need "out of home" (primarily residential) supports immediately. You would use these selections if you need a new place to live where you can also get the support you require. Remember to mark the type of residential support you need in the Supports Needed section of the PUNS form.
- The second part is for people who wish to stay in their own home, or their family's home, but still have an emergency need for services and supports. The supports might include in-home, employment, day, or any other supports.
If I am graduating from school this year, do I need to wait until graduation day to move into an emergency category?
No, the Office of Developmental Programs defines immediately as "within six months." You can move from critical to emergency when you are six months from graduation. Ask your supports coordinator to update your PUNS when you are six months away from graduating. This time period allows for locating and organizing resources. This time frame can be used for any criteria under the emergency criteria.
What happens after the PUNS meeting?
Your supports coordinator will enter your completed information from the PUNS form into the Home and Community Services Information System (HCSIS). Your supports coordinator will print out a copy of the HCSIS PUNS form and mail it to you with a letter within three weeks of the meeting. You should look at the PUNS form you receive in the mail to make sure it accurately lists what you need. The letter will have information about your rights and a disagreement form that should be used if you don't agree with the information on the PUNS form.
What happens if I don't agree with the information on the PUNS form?
If you disagree with the Category of Need or any other information listed on the PUNS form, you should fill out the disagreement form on the bottom of the letter you received with the PUNS form and mail it back to your supports coordinator. You will then discuss the problem with your supports coordinator and, if necessary, a supports coordinator Supervisor. If the issue is not resolved, it will be addressed by the County/Administrative Entity representative, who will make the final decision. If you are not enrolled in a waiver, all disagreements will be resolved according to the county's dispute resolution process. If you disagree with the information on your PUNS, you are not eligible for the formal Hearings and Appeals process. However, if you are denied the opportunity to apply for a waiver, you may formally appeal. Also, if you are enrolled in a waiver and you are denied a needed service or support, you can file a formal appeal through the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. You should know that the Office of Developmental Programs will be monitoring disagreements to ensure the Counties/Administrative Entities are following state policy. If you are concerned that your County/Administrative Entity is not complying with policy or you want information about the process, you can call the Office of Developmental Programs' toll free customer service number, 1-888-565-9435.
How long will I wait for services and supports?
The most important things that determine when you receive services are the availability of funding in your county and the urgency of your need. Each county gets an annual allocation of funding from the Office of Developmental Programs. Counties prioritize funding based on the urgency of need, availability of services to meet these needs, and availability of funding. People already enrolled in waivers must have all their needs met before the County/Administrative Entity can enroll new people. It is important to remember that the Waiting List is not like a bakery or deli line where each person has a number. The County/Administrative Entity matches available resources with individual needs to determine who gets services and when. People in Emergency will have priority but may still have to wait.
What should I do while I wait?
Waiting for needed services and supports can be frustrating. You can look for natural supports in your community. Natural supports are things people do to help without getting paid. It could be friends or family, church members, co-workers, or neighbors. There may be community organizations that can help. Look into YMCAs, recreation centers, volunteer agencies, and advocacy organizations for ideas and help. Your supports coordinator may also give you information about community resources.
Who can I contact if I have questions or concerns about my PUNS form or the PUNS process?
You can contact the Pennsylvania Training Partnership for People with Disabilities and Families (The Partnership). They offer technical assistance to families and people with disabilities.
Each County/Administrative Entity has a person that can help you. Ask for the "PUNS Point Person." Regional offices also have a person who is a PUNS point person, and the Office of Developmental Programs has a toll free number you can call.
The state office of Developmental Programs has a toll-free phone number to call if you have questions about PUNS. Additionally, The Partnership and its participating agencies can answer questions and offer assistance to individuals or their families.
Office of Developmental ProgramsCustomer Service Hotline: 1-888-565-9435Customer Service Hotline (Hearing-Impaired Only): 1-866-388-1114Central Office: 717-787-3700
ODP Regional Offices:
- Central: 717-772-6507
- Northeast: 570-963-4391
- Southeast: 215-560-2247
- Western: 412-565-5144
The Pennsylvania Training Partnership for People with Disabilities and Families
- Institute on Disabilities
- Mentors for Self Determination
- Speaking For Ourselves
- Vision for Equality
The Partnership is funded by the Department of Human Services' Office of Developmental Programs
Mentors for Self Determination
Telephone: 814-547-1577 or Tel: 724-813-5702
Speaking for Ourselves
Vision for Equality
Telephone: Philadelphia: 215-923-3349
Telephone: Harrisburg: 717-233-2424
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
Telephone: 215-204-3031 or 1-866-865-6170
This information is available in alternate formats, upon request.