National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be Accessible by Dialing 988 in July 2022 (January 31, 2020)

On January 28, 2021, PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller announced that Pennsylvania was awarded $340,000 for strategic planning and infrastructure development in preparation for the launch of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 988 in July 2022. The 988 call number will eventually replace 1-800-273-TALK (8255) as the direct line for the Lifeline, easing access to life-saving crisis intervention services for people experiencing thoughts of suicide, their loved ones, and anyone helping someone in crisis.

Funding will be used by DHS’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in partnership with Thomas Jefferson University to support 13 crisis call centers in preparation for 988 implementation. This will include building capacity to support increased call volume, coordinating local behavioral health, suicide prevention, and crisis support infrastructure, and building awareness of the launch of 988 as the new way to reach the Lifeline.

Call centers receiving funding through this effort include:
Center for Community Resources, Butler, PA;
Keystone Health Crisis Intervention Program, Chambersburg, PA;
Safe Harbor Behavioral Health, Erie, PA;
Valley Creek Crisis Center, Exton, PA;
TrueNorth Wellness Services, Hanover, PA;
Lancaster County Crisis Intervention, Lancaster, PA;
Family Service Association of Bucks County, Langhorne, PA;
Montgomery County Emergency Service, Inc., Norristown, PA;
The City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA;
Resolve Crisis Services, Pittsburgh, PA;
Centre Helps, State College, PA;
Resources for Human Development, New Perspectives Crisis Services, Stroudsburg, PA; and,
Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services, Uniontown, PA.

The grant was awarded through Vibrant Emotional Health, a non-profit organization that helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellbeing. Vibrant, the administrators of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, supports the Lifeline and other crisis resources through telephone, text, and web-based platforms. Vibrant is supporting states preparing for the 988 transition so the Lifeline can continue to be America’s mental health safety net by providing emotional support for people in distress, reducing suicides and mental health crises, and providing a pathway to well-being for all.

The task force released Pennsylvania’s Statewide Suicide Prevention PlanOpens In A New Window in September 2020. The plan is a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania by fighting stigma, increasing training and education on suicide and mental health, improving data collection for suicide, and supporting clinical practices and treatment to prevent suicide and help those who are struggling or in crisis know that things can and will get better. The task force will prioritize cross-industry partnerships to fully implement the Lifeline’s new 988 number over the coming year and a half.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal ideation or have in past, know that help is always available at the following:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 
The Spanish-language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-888-628-9454
For the Mental Health Crisis Text Line: Text PA to 74174
Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline: 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ individuals: 866-488-7386Trans Helpline: 877-565-8860

These free resources are available 24/7. If you are concerned about someone else’s well-being, these resources can help you be a life-saving assistance. No matter what you are going through, help is available. 

Office for Safe Schools Releases PCCD Threat Assessment Needs Survey (January 24, 2021)

On January 20, 2021, Office for Safe Schools Director Dr. Scott Kuren disseminated a PennLink to all LEAs titled PCCD Threat Assessment Needs Survey, informing recipients that Act 18 of 2019 amended the Public School Code of 1949 by adding Article XIII-E, Threat Assessment. Among its provisions, Article XIII-E requires all school entities in Pennsylvania to establish threat assessment teams and tasks the School Safety and Security Committee within the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to support school entities with this effort by developing model procedures and guidelines, training and information materials, and other resources.

To fulfill these responsibilities and support school entities in implementing these new requirements, PCCD is working with a selected training and technical assistance provider, Risk and Strategic Management (RSM) Corporation, to design and launch new resources, including an online training program and train-the-trainer curriculum. PCCD anticipates making these resources available to school entities (at no cost) beginning in early spring 2021.

To inform the design of this new comprehensive threat assessment training curriculum tailored for PA school entities, PCCD is asking school administrators, School Safety and Security Coordinators, and other personnel who will be involved in a school entity’s Threat Assessment Team(s) to complete a confidential Threat Assessment Needs Survey:

LEAs are asked to provide responses by Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

More information about PCCD’s threat assessment initiative, as well as model procedures and guidelines, guidance, training, and informational materials, can be found on PCCD’s website.

Wolf Names Two to Replace Dr. Levine at PDH (January 23, 2021)

On January 22, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf announced his intention to nominate Alison Beam to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health (PDH) and named Dr. Wendy Braund Interim Acting Physician General. Beam currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Wolf, coordinating initiatives and resources across Pennsylvania’s departments of Health, Human Services, Drug & Alcohol Programs, Aging and Insurance, as well as the Office of Advocacy and Reform. She has helped coordinate the administration’s COVID-19 pandemic response; the rollout of Pennie, Pennsylvania’s health insurance marketplace; the Reach Out PA campaign; and the Wolf Administration’s health care reform plan. Prior to transitioning to the Governor’s Office, Beam served as Chief of Staff to the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner. She previously served as Director of Public Policy and Associate Counsel for Independence Health Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Beam will assume the role of Acting Secretary effective January 23, 2021. The governor has also named Dr. Wendy Braund as Interim Acting Physician General, replacing Dr. Rachel Levine in that role. Dr. Braund, currently serves as the COVID-19 Response Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Previously, she was the Director of the Center for Public Health Practice, Associate Dean for Practice, and a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Prior to her time in academia, she served as the Wyoming State Health Officer and Public Health Division Administrator for the Wyoming Department of Health. Before working at the state level, Dr. Braund was employed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, first in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and then at the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions. Dr. Braund will assume the role of Interim Acting Physician General effective January 23, 2021. For more info, click here.

PA to Provide $2.2B in Stimulus Funds to K-12 Schools (January 23, 2021)

Governor Tom Wolf is dedicating $2.2 billion in federal stimulus funds to K-12 school districts and charter schools affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to support food programs, technological improvements and other education services.

“All schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I commend school communities for rising to the challenge to combat the toll it has taken,” said Gov. Wolf. “This extra funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom.”

The federal relief is provided by the bipartisan Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund passed by Congress in December.

“Additional, much needed support is on its way to Pennsylvania schools,” said Acting Secretary Noe Ortega. “These funds will provide critical assistance to school communities as they continue to navigate COVID-19.”

To promote equity, efficiency, transparency, and local flexibility, PDE will administer 100 percent of ESSER II funding through the Federal Title I, Part A formula which considers the number of low-income students served by school districts and charter schools. Each entity will receive an amount proportional to federal Title I, Part A funds received in the 2020 fiscal year under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

PDE has urged school entities to continue to prioritize equity and consider how investments can accelerate opportunities for vulnerable students and families, including those living in deep poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

School districts and charter schools may use ESSER funding for a wide range of activities, including food service; professional training; technology purchases; sanitization and cleaning supplies; summer and after-school programs; and mental health supports. A list of ESSER II fund allocations is available on PDE’s website. Funds must be used by September 2023. School districts and charter schools must apply to PDE to obtain their allocated funds. The application process will be posted on the PDE website.