What are Head Start Health Services Advisory Committees?

PIC PA PreK Counts Students learn about colors and clothing

PIC PA PreK Counts Students learn about colors and clothing

In January, Burchfield students were learning about clothes and for two weeks, students wore a specific color each day.   On January 12 they wore black and yellow to support the Steelers!  This day turned out to be their favorite color day of all!

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Head Start / Early Head Start FAQs The Private Industry Council discusses frequently asked questions for Head Start and Early Head Start students. Private Industry Council operates the Head Start / Early Head Start program for Beaver and Fayette Counties in the...

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Head Start and Early Head Start programs are required to establish and maintain a Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC).  The purpose of the committee is to assist programs in providing quality services in the areas of health, mental health, oral health, disability, and nutrition.  The services address the needs of the families currently enrolled based on the yearly Community Assessment, Self-Assessments, parent and community surveys, program goals and the needs of the community we serve.

The HSAC is composed of staff, parents, Policy Council Board members, other Head Start/Early Head Start programs’ staff, community agencies (Women, Infant & Children {WIC} program, Alternative Yes, Dads Matter, Poison Prevention Center, Plans of Safe Care), early intervention providers, mental health providers, nutrition {RD Consultant, Penn State Extension-Nutrition Links}, and health providers which include medical, dental and health insurance representatives.

HSAC members can participate in person or virtually and/or when needed through emails and calls to address a committee concern or need addressed at the meeting or that occurs at a later time.  Management staff participate on several other committees in the community and are always sharing program updates and challenges the program is facing and encouraging others to join the committee or provide information of what is new in their program that families may be able to benefit from.

Our program schedules two HSAC meetings yearly, once in the fall and in the spring.  However, these times are not the only time we see our committee members as many participate in our family events during the year.  For example, we have mobile dentists providing dental exams for children, social services agencies sharing their information regarding the services they provide, health insurance representatives providing information on Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) schedules and discussing with parents the importance of well child health care, and WIC discussing services available and sharing healthy eating tips.

Our first meeting this program year was held on December 7th at our Lemont Furnace location with 31 members present.  After a welcome and introductions, program updates were provided by the Head Start/Early Head Start Assistant Director.

Next discussed was Mental Health and Wellness as this was identified as a need for both our program and the community. Our program is seeing an increase in the number of children with a mental health diagnosis including autism, and children exhibiting inappropriate behaviors resulting in safety concerns both in the classrooms and homes.  Parents are reporting a wait time for seeing a mental health provider for themselves and/or their children.  Children are at times approved for a Behavioral Health Technician (BHT) and need to wait months for one to be assigned. The program’s Positive Discipline Policy was reviewed, and the program’s Family Wellness Consultant discussed the services and support provided to children and families.

Staff from Fayette County Behavioral Health Administration and Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services, Inc. (CRCSI) discussed their services and provided information to share with the staff and families. The information included a Family Resource Guide, a pamphlet on Behavioral Health Services for Children in Fayette County CRCSI Hope Network Family Based Mental Health Services and CRCSI Outpatient Services, list of agencies that provide Parent Child Interactive Therapy, CRCSI flyers For Those in Crisis and Immediate Access to a Mental Health Professional. Other members discussed other new programs to support families that may be available soon.

We had a surprise visit from the children in the Lemont Furnace 2 Head Start classroom. They provided singing entertainment with lovely holiday music and impressed us with an alphabet song. One committee member voiced seeing the children reminded him of why we are here.  At each meeting on the agenda, we share and give others the opportunity to share something positive within their organization.

The HSAC always ends with Round Table Agency Updates to obtain valuable information that can be shared with staff and families to develop a working relationship with our community partners.

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