Hospitals Face Funding Cuts for Psychiatric Foster Children

Hospitals that provide beds for foster children in need of intense psychiatric treatment are facing funding cuts. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports the cuts are putting pressure on the social service agencies that take care of the children.

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Beginning September first, the state of Texas is cutting the reimbursements hospitals receive for caring for children in the foster care and Medicaid system in need of mental health services. State Representative Garnett Coleman says it's causing hospitals to cut the number of beds available for these patients.

"So they are cutting those beds back. They won't be able to see as many kids. So, because they can't see as many kids that means there's less treatment available for children who are under the foster care system or under the Medicaid system."

The reimbursement rate is being cut about $100 a day per child.

"We can't expect a charity hospital or any one else to be able to treat someone appropriately and keep the doors open by paying them too little. A $100 cut is extremely significant when you're talking about keeping 20 to 30 beds open."

The potential cuts in hospital beds have officials at DePelchin Children's Center concerned about being able to provide care to children in need of intense psychiatric services. DePelchin's provides prevention, mental health and child welfare services. Executive Officer Doctor Curtis Mooney says they refer children in need of intense medical supervision to hospitals for care. But after September first, he anticipates fewer beds are going to be available.

"The problem we're going to have is a crunch at the hospital level when this funding cut comes in. A crunch at the residential treatment level when we no longer have a place to move a child to and what typically happens is, and what's happened in our system across the years is, everybody is caring for a more disturbed, a more difficult child, than they did say ten, fifteen, 20 years ago."

It's a crunch that's not easy for DePlechin to handle. Mooney says they currently receive $135 on average from the state per child, but it takes about $220 to care for a child for one day in residential treatment. Child Welfare Services Director Arlene Fisher sees those more difficult cases.

"Our goal really was crisis stabilization and there're some children who really are able to move through our residential program in a period of three or four months. But we see that there are other children with more extreme needs who are really needing a seven to 12 month placement."

DePelchin officials are also concerned more children will end up in emergency shelters that are not treatment facilities and receive even less funding to care for a child. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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