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DHS Priorities

The Department of Human Services (DHS) exists to help Pennsylvanians lead safe, healthy, and productive lives through equitable, trauma-informed, and outcome-focused services while being an accountable steward of commonwealth resources.

DHS serves more than 3 million Pennsylvanians through services and programs the agency oversees. Our work extends even more broadly by providing the opportunity to empower our communities and support individuals and families across the commonwealth.

Advocating on Behalf of Vulnerable Populations

DHS oversees daily care and supportive services for Pennsylvanians through residential licensing work, oversight of day and residential treatment programs, supervision of Pennsylvania's county-administered child welfare system, and oversight of long-term care facilities. This work can reach children from birth and their earliest years in child care; services provided to children and youth through foster, child welfare, and behavioral health care systems; adults with disabilities; and our parents and grandparents in long-term care. These vulnerable populations may not always be able to advocate for themselves, and we take our responsibility to protect their health and well-being and strive for continuous growth and quality of services by licensed facilities and provider very seriously.

Ongoing work and areas of focus

Long-Term Care (LTC) Populations

  • Completing Adult Protective Services Regulations and expanding reporting options.
  • Partnering with the General Assembly on updates to the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) to allow for data sharing with Community HealthChoices managed care organizations.
  • Promoting quality in care at skilled nursing facilities by developing an incentivized learning network and implementing performance-based payments tied to quality measurements.
  • Pursuing creation of an elder abuse registry.
  • Supporting quality in care for seniors and people with disabilities as well as the dedicated workforce who provide daily care and services by implementing the Long-Term Care Council's blueprint for improving the direct care workforce.
  • Transitioning the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) waiver to the Office of Developmental Programs.
Child Residential and Day Treatment Providers
  • Advancing quality and oversight of licensed providers by continuing work to rewrite of child residential and day treatment regulations (Chapter 3800).
  • Working with the Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) to ensure child residential facilities are trauma-aware by the end of 2021 and moving along the trauma-informed continuum.
Foster Care Populations
  • Progressing toward the implementation of the statewide Child Welfare Case Management System.
  • Using the Family First Prevention Services Act to expand prevention services to reduce out-of-home placements.
  • Increasing family-based and kinship care options to reduce congregate care usage
  • Promoting continued focus on prevention and reduction on out-of-home placements by  amending county children and youth agency regulations (Chapter 3131).
Broader Initiatives
  • Implementing the Enterprise Licensing System that will unify licensing work overseen by DHS and the departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Health to one single licensing management system.
  • Strengthening behavioral health services and access to these services for vulnerable populations.
  • Developing a comprehensive complex case process for children and adults with behavioral health or disability needs.
  • Automating access to MA for individuals in and leaving county jails.
  • Amending regulations to support safe care for children with medical complexities (Chapters 3800, 6400, 6100, and 6600).
  • Implementing a platform-based Enterprise Case Management (ECM) system to address case management needs.

A Prescription for Housing

A person's home and living circumstances can have a direct impact on their daily well-being and their long-term health. Chronic homelessness and housing insecurity can lead to or exacerbate chronic physical and behavioral health conditions, leading to quality-of-life concerns and high medical costs that could be avoided or offset with stabilizing housing supports. As we seek to strengthen our health care system by embedding a whole-person focus, the importance of housing is a priority.

Ongoing work and areas of focus

  • Continuing to promote and administer the first phase of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and establishing the second ERAP funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.
      • The second phase of ERAP will focus on housing stability and recovery support that is accessible without significant barriers to applicants in need of help, invests in affordable housing for vulnerable populations and communities, and provides access to counsel for tenants facing eviction.
  • Working with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to pursue housing services and supports that are covered through Medical Assistance (MA). MA-funded supports would focus on housing services and housing stability for people who are currently homeless and people at risk of homelessness who have high-risk health conditions such as diabetes, substance use disorder, and severe mental illness, and individuals who are pregnant and at risk of homelessness.
  • Increasing use of and access to MA-funded housing supports to help people with disabilities.
  • Combating racial inequity in housing by examining data and opportunities to address disparities through DHS' programs and leveraging partner agencies at the state and local level like the Human Relations Commission to promote equity and better access to safe, stable housing for all Pennsylvanians.
  • Developing creative initiatives and pilot programs that focus housing resources on specific vulnerable populations where return on investment and reduction in trauma have clear and long-term potential.
      • For example, the Stable Housing Interventions in Facilitated Teams (SHIFT) pilot program through Office of Children Youth and Families (OCYF) proposed in Governor Tom Wolf's 2021-2022 Executive Budget.
  • Increasing programing through MA to support lead remediation in homes of children with Elevated Blood Lead Level and low-income children prior to exposure to address this vulnerability in our aging homes, schools, and communities and protect Pennsylvania's children from the short and long-term dangers of lead exposure and poisoning.
  • Participating in technical assistance through the National Academy for State Health Policy's Health and Housing Institute to address access to housing through MA.

Expanding Medicaid Coverage Post-Partum to Support Perinatal and Parenting Families

The United States ranks last among industrialized nations in maternal mortality rate, and the Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative's report on maternal mortality rates from 2013-2018 found an extremely troubling, growing trend of pregnancy-related deaths — most of which occur after birth and are more common among Black women. We must reverse this trend.

Ongoing work and areas of focus

  • Continuing to promote improvements in quality and care through our health innovations work.
  • Expanding MA and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to individuals in the post-partum period from 60 days to 12 months, as permitted under the American Rescue Plan Act, effective April 1, 2022.
      • Work is occurring now to identify timeline, scope and costs for system changes. As we enact this authority, DHS will ensure continuity between MA and CHIP service provisions.
  • Identifying opportunities for use of in-home services post-partum, including home visiting and doula programs, to support new moms and their babies.
  • Reviewing and strengthen behavioral health components of service delivery for individuals experiencing post-partum depression.
  • Identify ways to market this expansion of services through DHS' public relations efforts, partnerships with stakeholders, advocates, and other partners, and promotion on our websites and social media.
  • Working with CMS to pursue opportunities to grandfather individuals into MA/CHIP coverage who would be in the 12-month coverage window but were terminated at 60 days to promote good health and well-being for mothers and children just beyond this coverage opportunity.
  • Expand collaboration among state agencies in support of perinatal and parenting families.