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Human Services’ Community HealthChoices Staff Receive 2020 Governor’s Awards for Excellence


Harrisburg, PA - Governor Tom Wolf announced today that seven Department of Human Services (DHS) employees were recipients of the Governor’s Awards for Excellence for their outstanding contributions to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Leadership in DHS’ Office of Long-Term Living, Jill Vovakes, Kristen Wierman, Jennifer Hale, Michael C. Hale, Randolph A. Nolen, Wilmarie Gonzalez, and Daniel S. Sharar, were recognized by Governor Wolf for their successful execution of the third and final phase of implementation for Community HealthChoices (CHC), a managed long-term services and supports program that affects approximately 370,000 Pennsylvanians.

“I could not be more proud of my colleagues for earning this prestigious honor today, and I offer them my sincerest thanks and congratulations,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “The work that the OLTL team made possible throughout the CHC implementation period has not only improved long-term services and supports delivery for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, but it has put Pennsylvania on the path to deliver positive results for years to come. This team knew that their work had implications on the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people around the commonwealth, and they rose to the challenge with respect and consideration for the people they serve and delivered excellent results.”

CHC was established to facilitate greater independence for Pennsylvanians who are aging or have a physical disability by providing services and supports that help them stay in their home and community and experience an overall better quality of life. By offering these services and supports in a managed care delivery system, DHS worked towards better quality of services for older Pennsylvanians and individuals with physical disabilities, as well as budget predictability.

CHC marked a monumental departure in care and service delivery for approximately 370,000 Pennsylvanians, many of whom are vulnerable populations and making changes to important health care programs and supports can have potentially life-altering implications for participants if full care and consideration is not taken.

The award recipients built on successes and learned from challenges of the first two phases of CHC implementation to set a strong foundation for its biggest roll-out, which covered the Northwest, Northeast, Lehigh Valley, and Capitol regions. The team led a long-term, detailed roll-out schedule that included communication with participants, stakeholders, advocates, local officials, and managed care organizations as well as health care, home care, and long-term care providers across Pennsylvania, all while prioritizing transparency and openness throughout the process.

To date, there have not been disruptions in care or services, and the CHC managed care organizations and DHS staff have supported participants and service providers in operating and providing safe services during the public health emergency. Since December 2017, the rate of people using long-term services and supports in their community has increased from 58.5 percent to 69.2 percent as of July 2020. The transition to CHC will also create predictability for long-term services and supports costs, one of the biggest cost drivers in Pennsylvania's Medicaid budget.

The Governor’s Awards for Excellence recognize commonwealth employees for exemplary job performance or service that reflects initiative, leadership, innovation and increased efficiency. The DHS employees are among 49 state employees from nine agencies to be honored by Governor Tom Wolf at today’s virtual awards presentation.

More information about CHC can be found here.


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