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This Coordinated Entry System will begin with the County’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (BHDS) partnering with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and PA 211 Southwest (211). The Base Service Unit (the entry way into mentalhealth services), will serve as the front-line entry for all residents seeking services through County-funded programs or additional resources. United Way’s 211 is a free, confidential, 24/7/365 service that connects residents with all the health and human services in their area that are available to help.
The new Coordinated Entry System will help to expand and integrate human services across Westmoreland County while ensuring seamless navigation for individuals seeking services from County-funded programs and through community partners. Over the next four months, a coordinated entry for mental health services will begin with changes to the access and entry points into the mental health system with the transition of the Base Service Unit.
“We are excited to partner with United Way through PA 211 Southwest, the creation and implementation of a coordinated entry system is a vital first step in streamlining our Human Services departments and integrating services to better serve our population.” - Chairman Sean Kertes
BHDS will be expanding to include a seven-person unit responsible for the enrollment of individuals into the mental health system. Services will also include linkage and referral to County supported programs that provide consumer support, advocacy and services to maintain mental health wellness in the person’s community. Additionally, 211 will be working along with the DHS to further integrate the County and community services provided to ensure a “one-stop-shop approach” for all who seek support or referrals.
Moving forward this will provide easy access for anyone who is new to Westmoreland County and/or who is in need of services. It is expected that this change will result in significant financial savings of approximately $200,000 to $400,000 for the County, and allow services to begin as soon as enrollment is complete. While a transition plan is implemented, the services currently offered will remain unchanged. There will be a series of community education and outreach events in the month of April.
Westmoreland County’s Commissioners are excited to see these changes. Commissioner Doug Chew said, “Westmoreland is the 11th largest county by population, and the current shotgun approach is letting folks slip through the cracks, causing the prison to be more of a mental hospital than a correctional institute.”
This initiative is part of a long-range plan to help integrate the Department of Human Services and expand services to all residents. In 2020, the Westmoreland County Commissioners along with The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania engaged The Hill Group to assess the effectiveness of human services throughout the County and to make recommendations for improvement. The Hill Group researched and reviewed best practices both inside and outside of Pennsylvania, critically assessed the current state of services within the County, and made recommendations to expand access, increase capacity and improve infrastructure, while creating financial savings for the County.
“The County’s commitment to improving and integrating its operations is a testament to our dedication to serving our communities with dignity and respect. I am confident that the Coordinated Entry initiative and partnership with 211 will lead to a brighter future for Westmoreland County and the people we serve,” said Commissioner Gina Cerilli-Thrasher.
Today, the County’s human services ecosystem exhibits several promising strengths. There is a large and diverse ecosystem of providers that has created informal approaches for cooperation and collaboration. As such, this led to a large investment from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to hire a new DHS Director to lead the beginning of the implementation of an integrated Department of Human Services that includes: the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), the Children’s Bureau (WCCB), the Veteran Affairs Department, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (BHDS) and the Drug Overdose Task Force (DOTF).
“These changes recognize the needs of everyone in our county receiving the life saving services that are so desperately needed, as such, the DHS is laser-focused on addressing the inadequacies of the mental health system.” - DHS Director Rob Hamilton
“Over the last 12 years, United Way’s PA 211 Southwest has made a significant impact on the individuals and families in our region,” shares Amy Franz, Regional Vice President, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “In the last year alone, 211 has answered 522962 contacts (calls, texts, chats). If anyone in our community is struggling with anything, including their mental wellness, 211 is here.”
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, has nearly 160 nonprofit and government agencies that provide human services to tens-of-thousands of clients across six third-class cities, 38 boroughs, and 21 townships spanning one of the Commonwealth’s largest counties by population (nearly 350,000) and by square miles.
United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, serving Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, convenes and mobilizes the caring power of individuals, the business community and organizations to help local people meet basic needs, move toward financial stability and for build success in school and life. Together with dedicated donors and caring volunteers, United Way creates long lasting change for the betterment of our community.