What is HEARTS?

    (Helping Elementary At-Risk To Succeed) HEARTS is, by definition, a school-based partial hospitalization program.  It falls within the mental health treatment spectrum of care, and from a clinical perspective, HEARTS is placed between outpatient therapy and inpatient hospitalization.  What does that mean?  In a nutshell, students who need more than just outpatient therapy, but less than an admission to a psychiatric hospital, are potential qualifiers for HEARTS.  A typical school day at HEARTS includes two hours of group therapy along with math and language arts instruction (SCASD curriculum).  Students also have access to weekly individual therapy sessions and weekly psychiatric appointments.  Families also participate in family therapy, as well as the psychiatric time.  It is important to note that HEARTS is a licensed mental health provider, and so there are state regulations that must be followed for admission and treatment.


    What is the criteria for HEARTS?

    Criteria can be some, or all of the following:

    1. Documented mental health treatment history, including previous or current services.
    2. Axis I diagnosis (ex:  depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, etc)
    3. Suicidal/homicidal ideation or self-harm concerns/attempts
    4. Ongoing physical aggression in school setting
    5. Internalized symptoms which limit learning and mental health (ie: anxiety/depression)
    6. FBA (some exceptions)


    Are there immediate disqualifiers for a HEARTS referral?

    Yes.  They are as follows:

    1. A diagnosis of conduct disorder
    2. A diagnosis of ID (intellectual disability)
    3. Low functioning Autism 
    4. Overall developmental delays.  For example, if a student is functioning developmentally like a preschooler, they cannot meet the demands at HEARTS.  They must be able to write their name, be potty-trained, have full use of language, etc.
    5. No established history of behavioral interventions and/or mental health treatment


    Does a student have to have an IEP to qualify for HEARTS?



    Do parents have to agree to a HEARTS referral?

    Yes.  HEARTS is a mental health treatment facility, and Pennsylvania law states that it is voluntary.  A school cannot make or force a referral without parental consent.


    Is an IMH referral required for HEARTS?



    How do I make a referral?

    A new HEARTS inquiry form has been created as a first point of contact.  You can also email Becky Swentosky (swentoskyra@upmc.edu) to inquire about the referral process.  A referral form will then be sent for a designated team member from your building to complete and submit.  Please note that there is a list of attachments requested, including work samples, previous records, etc. 


    How long does the referral process take?

    On average, two to three weeks (assuming there are openings).  Once the referral form is received, a referral meeting between the school team and the HEARTS team will be scheduled to determine eligibility.  The HEARTS team will decide, based on partial hospitalization criteria, if the referral can be accepted.  If the referral is then accepted, HEARTS will have to schedule an intake appointment with the family, and determine a start date based on specific program circumstances.


    Who pays for HEARTS? 

    HEARTS is licensed in the state of Pennsylvania as a partial hospitalization program, and so there is always an attempt to receive payment from the student’s insurance provider first.  If that payment is denied or not an option, UPMC and SCASD have a contracted rate which the school district pays.  


    If SCASD pays for students to attend HEARTS, doesn’t that impact admission criteria?

    No.  HEARTS must still follow the PA DPW standards and has to pass an annual audit showing that the program does so.  The admission process and admission criteria can’t and won’t change based on a payer source.


    My referral has been accepted.  Now what?

    Once a start date is decided, your school team will be identified as a HEARTS collaborator, and you will begin receiving update meeting emails.  HEARTS will schedule monthly update meetings (always on Friday afternoons), during which your team will be updated on progress and setbacks of your student.  Participation in these meetings is required to maintain admission.  HEARTS also requires a designated team member from the home school building to come once a month to do a classroom observation of the student. 


    How long are students at HEARTS for?

    Usually about 12 months, on average.  Sometimes less, sometimes more.  Discharge criteria is specific, and students must meet their treatment plan goals and show permanent progress before discharge planning begins.


    If a student has an IEP while at HEARTS, who manages it?

    The home school case manager remains the same, and continues to manage the IEP.  HEARTS does not manage any student IEPs, but does participate in all IEP meetings while students are in attendance, and will provide data/feedback when needed.


    Can a parent pull a student from HEARTS at any time once they are admitted?

    Yes.  It is rare, but sometimes it does happen.  Parent consent is required by the state of Pennsylvania, and so if a parent chooses to un-enroll their child from HEARTS at anytime, legally they are allowed to.  It will be documented as an AMA discharge (against medical advice), and doesn’t look good on their record.  But that can’t stop them, and the district is required to educate the student.

    Our student successfully completed HEARTS.  Now what?

    Your team will be given a month to two month heads up that transition time is coming.  A transition meeting will be scheduled, and a specific transition plan will be created.  The transition is a two-week period, during which the student attends their home school for half a day, and HEARTS for half a day.  A HEARTS classroom para will accompany the student while they are at the home school.  After two weeks, the student is discharged from HEARTS, and fully attending their school again.


    What post-HEARTS supports are available?

    Students may continue to access outpatient therapy through HEARTS after discharge.


    How can I contact HEARTS for questions/concerns/outreach?

    Becky Swentosky is the HEARTS Supervisor, and can be contacted through email (swentoskyra@upmc.edu) or phone (814-235-4932).  She is a good first point-of-contact, and will be your first stop for any clinical services/behavioral health questions or needs.

    Once a student is enrolled in HEARTS, the classroom teacher is Lorraine Fello.  She can be contacted for any educational needs by email (laf13@scasd.org) or her classroom phone (814-235-4538).

    Carrie Renninger is the HEARTS individual/family therapist, and can be reached by email (renningercl@upmc.edu).


    I’m still unsure about making a referral.  What should I do?

    Contact Becky.  She can meet with your team, meet with parents, or come do a student observation to help provide guidance before you even determine if a referral is warranted.  There is no harm in accessing support and feedback, even if it doesn’t result in a referral.


    What does a day in the HEARTS program look like?

    Sample HEARTS schedule

Last Modified on February 16, 2022