Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Group Living Services (PA-GLS) 9: Healthcare Services

Residents receive comprehensive healthcare services to promote optimal physical, emotional, and developmental health.
2020 Edition




Group Living Services allow individuals who need additional support to regain, maintain, and improve life skills and functioning in a safe, stable, community-based living arrangement.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Initial health screening procedures
  • Procedures for the coordination and provision of healthcare and dental examinations and services
  • Informational health and wellness materials
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Residents
  • Review case records

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 9.01

An initial health screening is conducted by a qualified medical practitioner for all residents within 24 hours of admission to identify the need for immediate medical care and assess for communicable disease.


Qualified medical practitioner refers to a licensed physician, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or other healthcare professional that is permitted by law and the agency to provide medical care and services without direction or supervision. For the purposes of this standard, qualified medical practitioners are distinct from other clinicians who are not permitted by law to provide medical care and services without direction or supervision (e.g., clinical social workers, licensed vocational/practical nurses, and medical assistants). To meet the standard, the initial medical screening must be administered by a qualified medical practitioner.

If the agency does not have a qualified medical practitioner on staff, it should research community resources and consider creating a formal arrangement or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a local physicians group, local health department, federally-qualified health center, urgent care clinic, community-based health clinic, or telehealth providers.

When possible, the screening should be performed by the resident’s primary care physician who has knowledge of the resident’s medical history or a physician that can serve as the resident’s medical home while in care. For children in foster care, the local child welfare agency may be responsible for ensuring the initial health screening is completed or may assist the agency to identify possible medical resources.


When a resident returns following a runaway episode, a health screen should be conducted within 24 hours of entry back into care to identify whether he or she was victimized or otherwise hurt or injured while on the run.


In situations where the resident is unable to receive an initial health screening by a qualified medical practitioner within 24 hours, the agency can receive a rating of 2 if it has procedures in place for accommodating exceptional circumstances and is able to provide evidence that the screening occurred within 72 hours of admission. Exceptional circumstances include, but are not limited to:
  1. weekend placements; and
  2. when a client is transferring from the care of a public agency that has arranged for an initial health screening to be conducted within 72 hours of admission to the program.
Examples: Conditions that require immediate or prompt medical attention include, but are not limited to: signs of abuse or neglect, serious, accidental or unexplained injury, signs of infection or communicable diseases, hygiene or nutritional problems, pregnancy, and significant developmental or mental health disturbances.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 9.02

The agency ensures that each resident receives:
  1. a comprehensive medical examination within five days after admission, unless the resident has received a medical exam within the last year, and annually thereafter; and
  2. a dental examination within six months prior to or one month after admission with appropriate follow-up thereafter.


When records from the most recent medical and dental examinations are unavailable or examinations are incomplete, the agency must ensure that examinations are completed within the required timeframes.


The purpose of the medical examination is to identify and assess medical, developmental, and mental health conditions that require treatment, additional evaluation, and/or referrals to other healthcare professionals or specialists. The examination must be comprehensive, build on history gathered during the initial medical screening, and focus on specific assessments that are appropriate to the individual’s age and developmental level. Findings from the exam should be used to develop individualized treatment plans, as well as inform follow-up assessments and services.


In situations where resources are not available for preventive dental care to occur every six months, the agency can receive a rating of 2 if there is an annual preventive exam and evidence that recommendations from the dental practitioner indicate the child is not in need of more frequent care. Children with dental issues or at high risk of dental problems must be receiving the care they need. Families should be engaged in the process and solution for getting their child the needed dental care.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 9.03

The agency provides needed health services directly or by referral, and: 
  1. retains documentation of the resident’s and his or her family’s known medical history, including immunizations, operations, medications, and medical conditions and illnesses; and
  2. provides the information to the resident and/or his or her legal guardian upon request.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 9.04

To promote their ability to maintain positive health practices, youth receive appropriate support and education regarding:
  1. proper nutrition and exercise;
  2. personal hygiene;
  3. substance use and smoking;
  4. sexual development;
  5. safe and healthy relationships;
  6. family planning and pregnancy options;
  7. pregnancy, prenatal care, and effective parenting; and
  8. prevention and treatment of diseases, including sexually transmitted infections/diseases and HIV/AIDS.

PA-GLS 9.05

The agency provides or arranges specialized health services to meet the needs of the service population, as appropriate.
Examples: Specialized health services may be needed by older adults, pregnant and parenting individuals, individuals with eating disorders, individuals with substance-use related conditions, or children with autism and pervasive developmental disorders. These services may include, for example:
  1. tobacco cessation;
  2. fetal alcohol syndrome screening;
  3. speech, language, and occupational therapy;
  4. prenatal care, well-baby care, and accessing child and infant health insurance programs;
  5. gender identity counseling; and
  6. screening for onset or existence of common cancers.