​Complex Needs: Current and Planned Efforts

Children, youth, and young adults with complex and multi-system needs and their families often face significant barriers to treatment, supports, and services.

It is the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ (DHS) goal to improve the systems which care for and support these youth and their families. To accomplish that goal, DHS launched an initiative to better understand their needs, develop recommendations to improve the systems of care, and build capacity by providing an intensive annual training curriculum to support multi-system functioning and collaboration. Below you will find an overview of this initiative.

Focus Groups and Surveys

To better understand the needs of these youth and the systems supporting them, ASERT (Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training), on behalf of DHS, conducted a series of focus groups and surveys from December of 2022 through May of 2023.

Participants - included a diverse group of systems and stakeholders:

  • county mental health, intellectual disabilities and Autism, child welfare, early intervention, and CASSP/SOC,
  • providers (community-based, residential, and inpatient psychiatric hospitals), 
  • Behavioral Health Managed Care Organizations (BHMCO), Behavioral Health Primary Contractors, 
  • youth and family, 
  • education (Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, intermediate units, approved private schools, and charter schools), and 
  • acute care hospitals.  

Blueprint Workgroup

The University of Pittsburgh, Child Welfare Resource Center (CWRC), on behalf of DHS, is facilitating this workgroup to develop recommendations using the information collected through the focus groups and surveys as well as the collective knowledge and expertise of the participants. 

Participants include: 

  • family and youth, 
  • social workers, 
  • clinicians, 
  • providers, 
  • EI and CASSP coordinators, 
  • county administrative officers, 
  • educators, 
  • state officials, and others. 

Recommendations developed are aimed at improving all systems supporting these youth and their families and at all levels of government.


The Blueprint workgroup first convened on July 19th and 20th, 2023 at the CWRC in Mechanicsburg, PA.  After the kick-off, the workgroup will meet in smaller groups virtually and in person through November of 2023. 

Youth with Complex Needs

The goal of CBI is to increase the administrative and clinical capacity across all systems supporting youth with complex needs and their families. The CBI curriculum will accomplish this by promoting and strengthening:

  • clinical knowledge and understanding among staff from local, regional, and state government, 
  • clinical expertise of providers – specific to individuals with both mental/behavioral health and developmental disabilities, 
  • local, regional, and state understanding of complex needs planning, (organizing/facilitating/philosophy of approach), 
  • each system’s understanding of other system’s available resources, processes, setting/service types, rules, and funding, and
  • networking across systems and regions.


More information will be available soon.  However, participants will reflect the child-serving systems supporting these youth, similar to the Focus Groups and Blueprint Workgroup.


CBI is an annual curriculum which will occur over a 9-month period, 2 days per month.  The first class will kick-off in January of 2024 and the last class is scheduled for September 2024.

DHS is working with The Columbus Organization and the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to develop and implement this curriculum.

Contact Information

Please send questions to: ra-pwcmplxcaserefs@pa.gov