New state policy aims to make it easier for adopted children to get mental health treatment

lbonner@newsobserver.comNovember 1, 2013 

The state has a new policy aimed at making it easier for adoptive parents to find mental health treatment for their children.

Until now, parents who adopted children on Medicaid, the government insurance for the poor, elderly and disabled, have had trouble finding mental health therapists for them once the children started lives with their new families and moved away from the counties where they were born.

On Friday, the state Medicaid office tried to straighten out that problem, declaring that the children’s new home was to be used for Medicaid treatment and provider-payment purposes.

“This policy change insures beneficiaries receive services without delay and providers receive payment for services rendered,” the administrative letter said.

The policy change should fix a problem that bloomed after the state changed the way local agencies manage and pay for mental health services. A 2011 state law created regional mental health agencies that manage their own patient-care networks and state, local and federal funds that pay for services.

Medicaid continues to pay for mental health treatment for children after they’re adopted so potential adoptive parents aren’t put off by the expensive care the children may need.

A group within the state Department of Health and Human Services that has been meeting for about a year helped come up with the policy change, said department spokesman Ricky Diaz.

The announcement was big news for parents and mental health providers, who had been asking for a solution since the local mental health offices were turned into regional managed care agencies.

“I practically did the happy dance,” said Todd Posey, clinical director at the Children’s Home Society in Greensboro.

Adoptive parents from around the state were fighting the restriction, but no one kept track of how many people were affected.

A bill that tried to solve the problem passed the state House unanimously this year but was sidelined in the Senate.

Posey said he has fielded calls from adoptive parents all over the state, even those who did not adopt through the Children’s Home Society, seeking advice because they had trouble getting approved treatment for their children.

“Providers were advocating for this for a long time,” he said. “I am thrilled that it has changed.”

Gaile Osborne of Buncombe County said she still has problems getting proper therapy for her two children adopted from Alamance, but now there is no more need for a case manager to travel hours and plan all-day trips to see them.

“It’s a huge step,” she said.

Bonner: 919-829-4821; Twitter: @Lynn_Bonner

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