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Children's mental health treatment centers lose millions in federal funding

Star Tribune - 5/8/2018

May 08--Nearly a dozen residential treatment centers for children with serious mental illness have lost millions of dollars in federal funding, in the wake of a federal decision that could imperil care for hundreds of children.

After a prolonged review, state and federal health regulators determined last week that 11 treatment centers with a total of 580 beds no longer qualify for coverage under the public Medicaid program. Officials cited a 1970s-era rule that prevents Medicaid from paying for care at larger institutions with more than 16 beds.

The decision casts doubt on the future of residential programs that treat hundreds of children and adolescents with histories of trauma and who suffer from a range of psychiatric problems, including severe anxiety and self-injurious behavior. The facilities are seen by state officials and mental health advocates as vital to helping children return to stability after a psychiatric crisis, and to avoid costly hospitalizations.

The loss of federal Medicaid funding marks the latest setback to state efforts to expand mental health treatment programs for the estimated 109,000 Minnesota children with serious mental illnesses. Last month, a proposal to build a 60-bed psychiatric facility in Forest Lake for children and teenagers with mental illness was rejected by city leaders, despite the project's overwhelming support in the community.

Unless state lawmakers step in to provide stopgap funding, the treatment centers would lose about $4.5 million in annual Medicaid funding, and would be forced to rely on county governments for support, which is far less certain, officials said.

"These programs are crucial," said Claire Wilson, assistant commissioner of community supports at the state Department of Human Services. "We have limited capacity right now.. and we know that we have kids being sent all over the state and sometimes out of state for residential treatment."

Twitter: @chrisserres


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