Families affected by mental illness say state funding changes could deny KS children resources they need

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- “If those things aren`t available, there is no place to go, and as a parent, we never close, I can never say to my children, you can`t come home, that`s not an option,” said Jennifer Savner Levinson, a mental health advocate.

Families affected by mental illness say changes in state funding could deny some Kansas children the resources they need. Funding for critical youth services is being cut from 100 percent to 60 percent.

It’s happening in residential mental health facilities in Kansas. Now, local families have concerns for the well-being of their kids who rely on those services.

Like many people -- Levinson has a family affected by mental illness.

“I can`t even imagine where my family would be, and other families that I know......where these kids would be if we did not have access to these resources and services that are accessible when we are in our greatest hour of need, deepest in the hole, when there is no light,” added Levinson.

Levinson and others are concerned about a state policy change for reimbursing Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities, or PRTFs.

When a child is not actually at a center -- perhaps on a hospital stay or a home visit -- the center now will receive just 60 percent of the funding it had been getting.

The state said it's bringing that reimbursement rate in line with those for intermediate care facilities and nursing homes -- but centers like Marillac say they need to pay for full staffing even if a child is away.

“We don`t know when we send that child home on a pass at 8 o`clock in the morning, they may be back at 1 o`clock in the afternoon because things weren`t going well,” said Lynn Lemke, the President and CEO For Marillac.

The State Department for Aging and Disability Services said this isn't a budget cut but the Marillac CEO sees a troubling pattern.

“It concerns me, because this is the second cut we`ve had in the last 12 months. We had a 4 percentcut that we experienced back on July 1, now they`re going to hit us with another one March 1,” added Lemke.

For financial reasons, several agencies like Marillac are already taking in children from other states, and will continue to do so which will ultimately limit access to children right here in the state of Kansas.

“For a lot of kids, they could be a danger to themselves, they could be a danger to other family members, they could be a danger to the community, you put so many people at risk, when all people are asking for is help,” Levinson added, “It takes such strong people to come out and fight the stigma, and say I have a child that struggles with mental illness, or I struggle with mental illness, I need help, that’s half the battle right there, so now these people are coming out saying that they need help, and we’re just turning away because it’s someone else’s problem.”

“I don`t see how they can think that if they take away $800,000 of projecting savings through this program, that taking away $800,000 worth of services for children and families won`t in some fact impact the quality of care these children are receiving,” Lemke said.

More information on Marillac, click on this link.

More information from Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, Topeka, Kansas:

Background:

Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs) provide out-of-home residential psychiatric treatment to children and adolescents whose mental health needs cannot be effectively and safely met in a community or out-patient setting. These programs provide active treatment in a structured therapeutic environment for children and youth with significant functional impairments resulting from an identified mental health diagnosis, substance use diagnosis, head injury, or other disabilities which involve mental health issues. These facilities have nothing to do with initial diagnosis of mental illness or substance use, or with temporary crisis placement. PRTFs provide  these young consumers with “non-emergent” (that is, non-urgent) psychiatric care in order to ensure that such care is provided in the least restrictive setting possible that is effective.

PRTFs provide planned treatment, not acute treatment. A youth may be admitted to a PRTF because, for example, he or she has been stabilized in an acute inpatient hospital unit but needs a continuing course of treatment in a residential in-patient setting, or because community treatment has not been effective.

The residential treatment facility is expected to work actively with the family and other agencies to offer trauma-informed, medically appropriate treatment designed to meet the individual needs of the residents.

There are currently 11 PRTFs across the State of Kansas.

Rate policy:

KDADS is not changing the actual PRTF reimbursement formula, which sets facility-specific rates.

Currently PRTFs are reimbursed at 100 percent of their facility-specific rate when a youth is not present for and receiving care at the facility, that is, on what we call “reserve days.”

The youth could be on a home visit, or in the hospital for a medical reason.

The purpose of the proposed change is to align PRTF reserve-day reimbursement with state regulation and with other facility reimbursement policies, such as those for intermediate care facilities (for IDD) and nursing homes.

Under that alignment, reserve days for PRTFs will be reimbursed at 60 percent of the facility-specific rate when the policy is final, as are the nursing facilities (NF) and intermediate care facilities (ICFs).

Currently the PRTFs receive 100 percent of the facility's daily rate even in the absence of the patient.