DHS COVID-19 PROVIDER RESOURCES // OMHSAS
Guidance from the Department of Human Services Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
(OMHSAS) regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Updated: March 14, 2020
County Mental Health Programs, Behavioral Health Service Providers,
Primary Contractors, Behavioral Health Managed Care Organizations
In response to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and its potential
impact on the delivery of services to individuals and families OMHSAS has developed
the following operational recommendations for counties and providers of behavioral
Information will continue to be shared and disseminated going forward to address
questions and concerns that have been brought to our attention. We continue to monitor
information from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Guidance developed by DHS will be centrally located
on this page, which will be updated as additional guidance becomes available. We
encourage you to continue to consult these resources for updates on COVID-19,
information on staying healthy, and updates on the situation in Pennsylvania
Recommendation #1: Exercise and promote hygienic practices.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to COVID-19. Providers
should remind staff that chances of exposure can be reduced by:
- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially
after being in a public place, or after blowing noses, coughing, or sneezing.
- Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water is not
readily available. People should cover all surfaces of hands and rub them
together until they feel dry.
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Covering mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or using
the inside of their elbow.
- Cleaning AND disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes
tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones,
keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If sick, stay home.
Recommendation #2: Review your agency emergency preparedness plan and
infection control procedures.
All counties and providers are strongly encouraged to:
- Review internal infection control protocols and emergency preparedness
plans for events in which a provider does not have adequate staffing to meet
individuals’ health and safety needs.
- Evaluate staff adherence to provider infection control protocols.
- Evaluate capacity to implement emergency preparedness plans in the event
staffing is impacted by the COVID-19 virus.
For questions or technical assistance related to emergency plans, counties and
providers may contact the appropriate regional office.
|Central Regional Field Office
|Northeast Field Regional Office
|Southeast Regional Field Office
|Western Regional Field Office
Recommendation #3: Report all suspected cases of COVID-19 to OMHSAS
For OMHSAS to be responsive to the needs related to COVID-19, timely
information from the county and provider community is essential. Staff should follow
Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) guidance for evaluation, testing, and
reporting related to staff or a beneficiary suspected of having COVID-19 available here.
If staff or a person for whom you provide services is suspected to have COVID-19 or
tests presumptively positive for COVID-19, please notify the appropriate regional office.
Recommendation #4: Contact OMHSAS before making any changes to your
business practice whenever possible.
It is strongly recommended that counties and providers contact OMHSAS and
any applicable Behavioral HealthChoices Managed Care Organization before making
any changes to your business practices in response to COVID-19. Examples of
changes in business practices include, but are not limited to:
- Suspending services at a service location or temporarily closing programs.
- Closing county offices.
OMHSAS is monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and is prepared to modify
expectations for compliance on a case-by-case basis should emergency conditions
present. By contacting OMHSAS, providers may be able to implement the most
effective strategy for maintaining continuity of operations during COVID-19.
Providers may contact the appropriate regional office to notify OMHSAS of a
proposed change in business practice and/or seek guidance related to a proposed
Recommendation #5: Document what actions were taken and maintain evidence
for why actions were taken.
Counties and providers should document any changes to their operations related
to operations as a result of COVID-19 and maintain evidence to support why the
changes were made. Doing so will help demonstrate the basis for an action in the event
that the appropriateness of the action is questioned after COVID-19 is contained and
operations return to normal
OMHSAS will provide technical assistance with the kind of evidence that should
be maintained when counties or providers contact OMHSAS in accordance with
Recommendation #4. In general, evidence that should be maintained includes, but is
not limited to:
- Orders or notices from local authorities. Example: County Health
Department A imposes a restriction on public gatherings of more than 20
people, forcing Provider B to close its program for one week. Provider B
should retain the official notice from County Health Department A as
evidence to support the closure.
- Correspondence and other records demonstrating inability to meet
required staffing ratios or response times. Example: Provider A’s
employees are unable to report to work due to COVID-19-related reasons.
Provider A attempts to secure temporary staff from three staffing
agencies, but each agency reports that they too are experiencing staff
shortages. As a result, Provider A is out of compliance with required
staffing ratios. Provider A should retain copies of correspondence with
each of the three staffing agencies to demonstrate that all possible efforts
were made to secure enough staff.
Recommendation #6: Stay Informed
- COVID-19-specific information can be found at:
- The Pennsylvania DOH holds press briefings every day to announce the latest
efforts and updates on the commonwealth’s response to COVID-19. Counties and
providers may watch a free live stream of the daily briefing at noon here.. An archive of past briefings is available here.
- One of the most important steps you can take to stay informed about our program is
subscribe to our Listservs. Important announcements, including announcements
about COVID-19, are regularly sent over the Listservs.
Resources for Infection Control Practices