Department of Human Services Team Receives Governor’s Awards for Excellence for Work to Expand Street Medicine in Pennsylvania, Improving Access to Care for People Experiencing Homelessness

Governor Shapiro, Secretary Arkoosh, and DHS' winners of the Governor's Award for Excellence

Pennsylvania was one of the first three states to reimburse for street medicine through its Medicaid program, and after a successful trial here in the Commonwealth, the federal government has granted this flexibility to all states.

Harrisburg, PA – Staff from the Department of Human Services (DHS) were recognized with Governor’s Awards for Excellence in a ceremony earlier this week for their work to allow certain enrolled medical providers to provide care outside a clinical setting to Medicaid beneficiaries who are experiencing homelessness – a practice known as street medicine. This award recognizes DHS as a national leader in supporting this model of care and reducing barriers to health care for vulnerable Pennsylvanians. 

In 2023, DHS announced a change to Medicaid, also known as Medical Assistance in Pennsylvania, to allow for street medicine services. Pennsylvania initially was one of only three Medicaid programs in the nation to reimburse for street medicine, and since Pennsylvania was approved to reimburse for this service, the federal government has granted this flexibility to all states. 

“I am incredibly proud of the hardworking DHS employees recognized with these Governor’s Awards for Excellence and I am grateful for their constant dedication to helping all Pennsylvanians live safe, healthy lives,” said DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “Street medicine meets people where they are, reducing barriers to care and recognizing our individual dignity, no matter our circumstances. Our work to recognize this care delivery model and ensure that Medicaid providers are paid for street medicine services is an example of collaboration and innovation that makes it easier for health care providers to get people the care they need, reduce costly care in emergency departments, and connect unhoused individuals with stabilizing services.”

The DHS Governor’s Awards for Excellence winners are:

·         Wanda Balmer 

·         Margaret Christie 

·         Summerann Clarke 

·         Evangeline Cullers 

·         Melody Hertzog 

·         Pamela Machamer-Peechatka 

·         Shivani Patel 

·         Rebecca Robey 

·         Maki Traynor 

·         Benny Varghese

The award winners work in the Office of Medical Assistance Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services that oversee physical and behavioral health care in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program. The team worked with advocates and street medicine practitioners to develop policy and implement a phased approach allowing eligible providers to practice and bill Medicaid for street medicine. 

Together, the team paved the way for physicians, certified nurse midwives, certified registered nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, and mobile mental health treatment providers to practice street medicine. In Fall 2023, DHS further expanded the types of providers eligible to practice and bill for street medicine to include dentists, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, podiatrists, and various behavioral health care providers. The creativity and innovation demonstrated by this team went above and beyond their usual scope of work to create a street medicine program that includes more provider types than any other program in the country, making Pennsylvania a national leader in providing services to individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Investments in street medicine provide life-saving health care while also building trust within one of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable populations. People experiencing homelessness in the United States die, on average, three decades earlier than their peers with housing, most commonly due to preventable and treatable chronic medical conditions. Health care costs for people experiencing homelessness in the United States are also five times the national average. An over reliance on emergency departments for routine medical care and increased hospitalization rates for illnesses presenting in advanced stages seriously impacts quality of life and risks early mortality for unhoused people, while also straining health care systems. 

The Governor’s Awards for Excellence is a competitive program that recognizes Commonwealth employees for exemplary job performance that reflects initiative, leadership, innovation, and outstanding public service. Recipients of this award are nominated by fellow Commonwealth employees for their dedication and positive impact on Pennsylvania. A total of 56 employees from 12 Commonwealth agencies were recognized for remarkable accomplishments in 2023.

Additional resources for individuals experiencing homelessness available through DHS can be found through the Homeless Assistance Program, and more information about other assistance programs administered by DHS is available at

DHS Media Contact Details

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Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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Ali Fogarty

Communications Director Department of Human Director 717-425-7606
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Brandon Cwalina

Press Secretary Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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