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Frequently Asked Questions


FAQ 1: PUNS, Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services

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FAQ 1: PUNS - Introduction

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The Partnership: The Pennsylvania Training Partnership for People with Disabilities and Families.
Frequently Asked Questions, FAQ #1: PUNS - Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services.
Revised Summer 2011.

What is PUNS?

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PUNS stands for the Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services.

The PUNS form gathers information about your situation, your needs (current and anticipated), and what services and supports you may need through the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs. The information is collected by each county's Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR) office, also called that county's Administrative Entity (AE).

The PUNS form describes how soon you will need services and supports. PUNS information helps the county and the state understand and plan for what you need and when you will need it. PUNS information is entered into the state database, the Home and Community Services Information System (HCSIS).

The PUNS form is a planning and information gathering tool. Completion of the PUNS does not mean your service needs can be met at the time you fill it out.

Who Needs a PUNS?

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Regardless of whether you are enrolled in a waiver, you need a PUNS if…

  • You or your family member are in need of services and supports that you are not currently receiving.
  • You think you will need services and supports within the next 5 years.

Why Should I Complete a PUNS?

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The PUNS process helps the Administrative Entity/County (AE/County) and state understand and plan for your needs and how you relate to others waiting for services. It captures the supports and services you need that may be provided through the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP).

The information on the form will help your Supports Coordinator and AE/County understand and plan for your needs. The AE/County and the state use the information to create their upcoming annual budgets. It also tells the ODP the types of supports people are waiting for in each county and helps identify gaps in services and supports in specific areas.

The ODP uses PUNS data to plan and to explain people's needs to the governor's office and the legislature.

The advocacy community uses PUNS information to educate legislators about the needs of people with intellectual disabilities/mental retardation who are waiting for supports and services.

When Do I Complete a PUNS?

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After you register and are found eligible for intellectual disabilities/mental retardation (ID/MR) services with your county program, you will meet with your Supports Coordinator to discuss your life situation and determine if you need to fill out a PUNS form. You and your Supports Coordinator will update your PUNS at least once every year for as long as you need a PUNS. Any time your needs change, you should contact your Supports Coordinator to update your PUNS form. If all your needs are met, and you are not waiting for any services and supports, you do not need a PUNS form.

How Do I Complete a PUNS Form?

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The PUNS is completed during a face-to-face meeting with your Supports Coordinator. You can invite other people to the meeting to help you (e.g. employer, advocate, provider, teacher, friend, family members, etc.).

You need to review and discuss the areas of need on the form with your Supports Coordinator, and decide which categories or selections apply to you. Next, you and your Supports Coordinator will fill in the information about what supports and services you are currently receiving, and what supports and services you need. It is important that your PUNS form accurately reflects your need as it is used to help the county and state plan for your needs. Everyone at the meeting will sign the form. Your signature indicates participation only, not agreement.

What Do the "Categories of Need" Mean?

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There are three categories of need:

  • EMERGENCY means you need support immediately (within the next 6 months).
  • CRITICAL means you will need support within the next 2 years.
  • PLANNING means you need support more than 2 but less then 5 years from now.

When considering all of the statements under each category of need, you should select all situations that apply to you. You can have more than one selection in each category. For example, you may have a caregiver who is ill and you may also be graduating high school in the next 2 years.

Anticipated needs that are more than 5 years away are not captured through PUNS, but should be discussed with your Supports Coordinator.

Why Does the Emergency Category Have Two Sections?

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The emergency category is broken into two parts:

  1. The first part is for people who need "out of home" (primarily residential) supports immediately. You would use these selections if you need a new place to live where you can also get the support you require. Remember to mark the type of residential support you need in the Supports Needed section of the PUNS form.
  2. The second part is for people who wish to stay in their own home, or their family's home, but still have an emergency need for services and supports. The supports might include in-home, employment, day, or any other supports.

If I am Graduating from School This Year, Do I Need to Wait Until Graduation Day to Move into the Emergency Category?

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No. The Office of Developmental Programs defines immediately as "within 6 months." You can move from critical to emergency when you are 6 months from graduation. Ask your Supports Coordinator to update your PUNS when you are 6 months away from graduating. This time period allows for locating and organizing resources. This time frame can be used for any criteria under the emergency category.

What Happens After the PUNS Meeting?

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Your Supports Coordinator will enter your completed information from the PUNS form into the Home and Community Services Information System (HCSIS). Your Supports Coordinator will print out a copy of the HCSIS PUNS and mail it to you with a letter within 3 weeks of the meeting. You should look at the PUNS form you receive in the mail to make sure it accurately lists what you need. The letter will have information about your rights and a disagreement form that should be used if you don't agree with the information on the PUNS form.

What Happens if I Disagree with the Information on My PUNS Form?

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If you disagree with the Category of Need or any other information listed on the PUNS form, you should fill out the disagreement form on the bottom of the letter you received with the PUNS form and mail it back to your Supports Coordinator. You will then discuss the problem with your Supports Coordinator and, if necessary, a Supports Coordinator Supervisor. If the issue is not resolved, it will be addressed by the Administrative Entity/County representative, who will make the final decision. If you are not enrolled in a waiver, all disagreements will be resolved according to the county's dispute resolution process.

If you disagree with the information on your PUNS, you are not eligible for the formal Hearings and Appeals process. However, if you are denied the opportunity to apply for a waiver, you may formally appeal. Also, if you are enrolled in a waiver and you are denied a needed service or support, you can file a formal appeal through the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.

You should know that the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) will be monitoring disagreements to ensure the AEs/Counties are following state policy. If you are concerned that your AE/County is not complying with policy or you want information about the process, you can call the ODP's toll free customer service number, 1-888-565-9435.

How Long Will I Wait for Services and Supports?

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The most important things that determine when you receive services are the availability of "waiver opportunities" in your county and the urgency of your need. "Waiver opportunity" is when there is either a Person/Family Directed or a Consolidated waiver available in which someone can be enrolled.

Each year the Office of Developmental Programs tells each Administrative Entity/County how many Person/Family Directed and Consolidated waivers they have. This is called the AE/County's "waiver capacity." Sometimes this waiver capacity allows for a small number of new people to receive services. In years where there have been large Waiting List initiatives by the Governor, there are larger numbers of new people offered waiver services. Taking into account their waiver capacity, AEs/Counties decide who gets offered waivers based on urgency of need and availability of services to meet those needs. Waiver opportunities may also become available within the county as individuals are dis-enrolled from the waiver through movement out of state, placement in a nursing home, etc.

It is important to remember that the Waiting List is not like a bakery or deli line where each person has a number. The AE/County matches available resources with individual needs to determine who gets services and when. People in Emergency will have priority, but may still have to wait.

What Should I Do While I Wait?

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Waiting for needed services and supports can be frustrating. You can look for natural supports in your community. Natural supports are things people do to help without getting paid. It could be help from friends or family, church members, co-workers, or neighbors. There may be community organizations that can help. Look into YMCAs, recreation centers, volunteer agencies, and advocacy organizations for ideas and help. Your Supports Coordinator may also give you information about community resources.

Who Can I Contact if I Have Questions or Concerns About My PUNS Form, or the PUNS Process?

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You can contact the Pennsylvania Training Partnership for People with Disabilities and Families (The Partnership). They offer technical assistance to families and people with disabilities.

Each Administrative Entity/County has a person that can help you. Ask for the "PUNS Point Person." Regional offices also have a person who is a PUNS point person, and the Office of Developmental Programs has a toll free number you can call.

Information about the PUNS is available on the Department of Public Welfare website: www.dpw.state.pa.us.

The State Office of Developmental Programs has a toll free phone number for you to call if you have questions about PUNS.

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Additionally, The Partnership and its participating agencies can answer questions and offer technical assistance to individuals or their families.

Office of Developmental Programs 1-888-565-9435

ODP Regional Point People (as of Summer 2011):

Kathy Zumbrun
Tel: 717-214-9129
Email: kazumbrun@state.pa.us

Michele O'Toole
Tel: 570-963-3202
Email: micotoole@state.pa.us

Nathifa Carmon
Tel: 215-560-1050
Email: ncarmon@state.pa.us

Don Stahlman
Tel: 412-880-0222
Email: dstahlman@state.pa.us

The Partnership

Tel: 1-866-865-6170
Web: www.TheTrainingPartnership.org

The Partners:

Tel: 412-995-5000
Toll free: 1-888-272-7229
Web: www.achieva.info

Mentors for Self Determination
Tel: 814-547-1577
Web: www.mentors4sd.org

Self-Advocates United as 1
Toll free 1-877-304-7730
Tel: Eastern, 215-923-3349 x132. Western, 724-813-5702.
Web: www.sau1.org

Vision for Equality
Tel: Philadelphia: 215-923-3349
Tel: Harrisburg: 717-233-2424
Web: www.visionforequality.org

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
Tel: 215-204-7556
Toll Free: 1-866-865-6170
Web: www.disabilities.temple.edu


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THE PARTNERSHIP—The Pennsylvania Training Partnership for People with Disabilities and Families

  • Achieva
  • Institute on Disabilities
  • Mentors for Self Determination
  • Self Advocates United as 1
  • Vision for Equality

The Partnership is funded by the Office of Developmental Programs, Department of Public Welfare.

Phone: 1-866-865-6170
Web: www.TheTrainingPartnership.org

Providing training and technical assistance in Pennsylvania.

Produced by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education.

This information is available in alternate formats, upon request.

Para información en español: 215-204-9348 o por correo electrónico al: latino@temple.edu.