Making a Real Impact in Crisis Prevention and Intervention

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Today, we still see unfounded and unfair misconceptions and bias toward individuals diagnosed with an intellectual and/or developmental disability. RHD is dedicated to challenging these misguided prejudices and breaking down barriers to empower participants to achieve their full potential. RHD created a program to address these prejudices. On July 18, Allegheny County service providers, social workers, and others gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monroeville, PA, to launch PA START Allegheny. This initiative unites RHD with other passionate stakeholders on a mission to create positive change for its participants. PA START Allegheny is an exceptional crisis prevention and intervention program, providing round-the-clock assistance to individuals aged 6 and older with IDD and autism spectrum disorder, along with co-occurring behavioral health needs.

At its core, the goal of the START model is to forge strong connections with existing services, resulting in improved outcomes for both individuals and providers such as schools, healthcare providers, and psychiatrists. Rather than replacing services, START produces results through close collaboration with participants and their caregivers. The acronym START itself embodies the program’s goals: Systemic, Therapeutic, Assessment, Resources, and Treatment.

This endeavor is made possible through the partnership of RHD, Allegheny County Department of Human Services (AC DHS), PA Office of Development Programs (ODP), and PA Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). Additionally, the National Center for START ServicesTM provided essential guidance and support through technical assistance, clinical expertise, training, and consultation services.

During the event, compelling speakers explored various facets of START and its transformative impact on Allegheny County. The audience watched a heartwarming video that highlighted START’s principles in action and showcased participants, family members, and service providers. Brenda Bulkoski, Deputy Director of DHS Office of Developmental Supports, eloquently conveyed the significance of the START model for Allegheny County by stating, “The work is not over. It has just started. However, we’re confident the benefits to the individuals we support, and the community at large, will have long lasting and positive effects.”

Dr. Gregory Cherpes, MD, the esteemed Medical Director at the Office of Developmental Programs, Department of Human Services of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, delivered a keynote speech that described trauma in the START setting. Dr. Cherpes emphasized the importance of granting people with intellectual disabilities access to enriching life experiences, including healthcare, for their holistic well-being. His insightful presentation also underscored the significance of trauma-informed approaches, recognizing and addressing both overt and subtle traumas individuals may encounter.

As the event neared its conclusion, Loleda Moman, program director of PA START Allegheny, delivered a powerful and uplifting speech. “We want to focus on what works, not on the deficits. There’s enough of that happening in our society.” PA START Allegheny sets itself apart by approaching participants with a simple yet profound question: “What do you like to do, and how can we make that happen for you?” This deeply empowering and compassionate mindset will steer the program staff toward enduring favorable impacts on the lives of those they support and the entire community.

To lear more about this dynamic program committed to making a difference in the lives of people across Allegheny County, visit