Historical Background on the Head Start – MCO Liaison Project

The PA Head Start Association, PA Head Start State Collaboration Office, and Pennsylvania Head Start programs have been involved in a unique partnership called the “Head Start-MCO Liaison Project” with the Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP) at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA DHS) since 2012. The Head Start – MCO Liaison Project helps Pennsylvania Head Start programs to address individual needs and obtain optimal health care through effective care coordination with the MCOs as genuine partners in care.

Back in 2012, PA Head Start Oral Health Task Force identified that many local Head Start programs were having difficulty obtaining follow up dental care for enrolled children. Many of these children received Medical Assistance but did not have a dental home. There was also difficulty in getting dentists to do pre-op clearance for children with special needs. These children may require sedation, and in some cases, parents are hesitant to provide consent. Parents needed to be encouraged and educated to ensure their child received the necessary treatment for proper oral health and the importance of treatment to prevent further health issues. In addition, dental networks needed to be educated and possibly expanded to include more dentists willing to provide this necessary care. There was a great need for better care coordination between the Physical Health-MCOs and the local Head Start Programs operating within the HealthChoices Zones. Issues pertaining to other EPSDT-related services also needed to be addressed through this effort.

Through the MCO-Head Start Liaison Project, every Head Start program in Pennsylvania is encouraged to build a 1:1 relationship with each MCO operating the HealthChoices program in their local areas.  The goal in developing this innovative partnership is to assist families with very young children to gain full access to all health services under the Medicaid program.  All Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) in Pennsylvania have identified a designated “Head Start Liaison” who is the single point of contact for Head Start within each of the MCO’s Special Needs Units (SNU).  The Bureau of Managed Care Operations at the PA Department of Human Services’ Office of Medical Assistance Programs published an Operations Memo in 2012 about this innovative partnership.

DHS-BMCO Operations Memorandum 07-2012-010

The MCO-Head Start Liaison Project is designed to support the efforts of Head Start programs to establish permanent medical and dental homes in collaboration with families.  It strengthens existing connections between Head Start programs and the local medical and dental community. If necessary, the MCO-Head Start Liaisons are poised to establish effective connections so that children receive comprehensive health services regardless of individual barriers to care. The goal of the MCO-Head Start Liaison Project is to ensure that Head Start programs and families can obtain all of the comprehensive physical health services to meet Pennsylvania’s Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Requirements.  The EPSDT requirements include important physical health screenings and oral health services, especially follow-up referrals and treatment, for all children enrolled Head Start.

Please contact your Head Start-MCO Liaisons directly by locating the Managed Care Organizations working in your service area.

Contact List for Head Start-MCO Liaisons:

MCO Contacts w Counties 9.5.19

Monthly Head Start-MCO Networking Conference Calls

All Head Start and Early Head Start Programs are invited to join monthly networking conference calls with the MCOs and other stakeholders across Pennsylvania

Calls are scheduled for the 3rd Thursday of every month at 1:30 pm

 Participants are encouraged to:

  • Ask questions
  • Discuss concerns
  • Problem-solve issues
  • Address barriers to accessing comprehensive health services, including EPSDT screenings, physical health, dental, behavioral health services, and more
  • Plan coordination of care activities
  • Identify new opportunities to collaborate
  • Share successful ideas and strategies to improve health services to children and families!

 Please use the same call-in # (484) 808-2016 (no passcode needed)

MCO-Head Start Monthly Calls Flyer


National Presentation for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on the PA Head Start-MCO Liaison Project (2016):
PA Story 2016 CMS Learning Lab Presentation