April 29, 2021

Department of Human Services Discusses Support to Long-Term Care Facilities Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic and Vaccination Data

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Senior Advisor Teresa Miller today joined Jewish Healthcare Foundation Chief Operating Officer and Chief Program Officer Nancy Zionts to discuss the Wolf Administration’s collaborative work to support long-term care facilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Wolf Administration and Jewish Healthcare Foundation have worked in partnership with health systems across Pennsylvania to provide both remote and on-site assistance to long-term care facilities working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or facing outbreaks to help facilitate continuity of care and protect residents and staff.

“Our long-term care system exists so seniors and people who need everyday assistance know that they are not alone. Moving forward, there will be many lessons to learn on how we can take the experiences of this pandemic to strengthen our long-term care facilities and use this time to prepare for what could come in the future,” said Miller. “The Wolf Administration will continue to be an advocate and ally to the Pennsylvanians who call these facilities home as well as the dedicated staff that worked every day to continue care and support to their residents, and I hope all Pennsylvanians will join us in this effort by getting vaccinated and continuing to keep all in their community safe as we work to overcome this pandemic.”

More than 40,000 Pennsylvanians live in approximately 1,200 personal care homes and assisted living residences throughout the commonwealth, and these residents are some of the most vulnerable and susceptible to COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccination Administration

Residents and staff of personal care homes and assisted living residences were able to be vaccinated through both the Federal Pharmacy Partnership as well as partnerships between DHS and Rite Aid Pharmacy and Walgreens. Based of current reporting, 83 percent of residents and 49 percent of staff at these facilities were vaccinated. Data reported by participating facilities is available online here, and will be updated quarterly.

DHS is continuing to work with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to encourage vaccine uptake among residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Facilities can access educational materials through the Tomorrow’s Healthcare portal available to facilities at no cost at www.jhf.org.

DHS-licensed facilities that have residents and staff who would like to be vaccinated can access vaccines on an on-going basis through the Department of Health’s long-term care vaccine strategy.

On-site and Remote Assistance to Facilities

Due to the different level of care provided in DHS-licensed long-term care facilities, they may not have access to the clinical staff that is more typical in nursing facilities, and as such direct care workers in these settings may be less prepared to deal with the challenges raised by COVID-19.

The Wolf Administration worked quickly in the early weeks of the pandemic to support these facilities as they adjusted operations and worked to keep residents and staff safe while continuing care. In April 2020, the Education Support and Clinical Coaching Program (ESCCP) was established through a voluntary partnership between the Wolf Administration, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and seven health systems across Pennsylvania. This learning network provided technical assistance on implementing infection control procedures and mitigation guidelines and educational support to long-term care facilities.

In July 2020, the Regional Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) program was established with funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to build on support provided by the ESCCP. The RRHC program was designed to bolster Pennsylvania’s support for long-term care facilities and their residents and staff by providing clinical support, technical assistance, and education to long-term care facilities as they work to prevent and mitigate spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, Regional Congregate Care Action Teams (RCATs) were established in early January 2021 to continue some of the support previously offered by the RRHC program when its funding lapsed at the end of 2020. Through the RCATs, more limited services are provided by health systems previously affiliated with the RRHC and are coordinated and developed through DHS, the Department of Health (DOH), and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), but this model preserves rapid response support previously provided by the RRHCs.

Since July 2020, the RRHCs and RCATs have worked on approximately 20,000 missions to support facility readiness and help facilities strengthen mitigation procedures, infection prevention and control, and they have conducted more than 600 total rapid response team deployments to support outbreak stabilization and continuity of care. Webinars held by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation on topics like infection control, considerations for special populations, and supporting the emotional toll of COVID-19, among others, have reached approximately 6,800 people, and they all remain available on-demand to long-term care facilities.

For more information on guidance to DHS’ providers related to COVID-19 and data on DHS-licensed facilities, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, DHS, ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov