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OhioRISE offers new treatment resources for children

OhioRISE offers new treatment resources for children

A proposed state program that aims to treat children with severe mental illness and other behavioral health conditions was hailed by children services advocates today as a critical rung in serving kids in foster care – and in preventing them from entering care in the first place.

A new specialized Medicaid managed care program called OhioRISE could fill a significant gap in current state services for foster children and other youth with serious challenges. “County children services agencies have struggled for years to find adequate treatment for foster youth with complex needs,” said Angela Sausser, executive director of Public Children Services Association of Ohio. “Ohio’s Medicaid managed care program has strived to provide intensive care coordination and better access to services, but in the end, a program laser-focused on children with new evidence-based services is what’s needed.”

OhioRISE proposes to do just that, bringing Ohio in line with other states in meeting the needs of youth with serious behavioral health problems. “Gov. DeWine and Department of Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran are building on their longtime advocacy for children’s resilience and behavioral health by moving the state closer to a true continuum of care for kids and families,” Sausser said. “A seamless continuum of care must begin with a commitment that children should be raised in families, not in institutions. Services should start before children must be removed from their homes for abuse or neglect, and children who are removed should be placed in the most appropriate setting with immediate access to trauma-informed services.”

PCSAO Trustee Robin Reese (pictured), executive director of Lucas County Children Services, spoke at today’s OhioRISE announcement about a 14-year-old boy in her agency’s custody who has robbed stores and banks. His diagnoses include ADHD, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder and depression. The agency has had to leave him in the county detention center because, even after calling facilities across the nation, no other placement can be found. “My fellow directors all over Ohio are finding themselves in the same predicament. It’s not good for kids, and it’s not good for families,” Reese said. “In 2018, PCSAO highlighted the need for reform in our Children’s Continuum of Care plan, a call to action to prevent kids from entering care and better serve them when they do come into care. We believe children do better in families.”

In addition to serving foster youth, OhioRISE should also help to address the custody relinquishment dilemma that has plagued families whose insurance does not cover expensive mental health treatment services. “In some cases, these families have been forced to relinquish custody of their children to a county agency in order to access these expensive treatment services,” Sausser said. “If this program helps families access those services, it will mitigate a longstanding problem of unnecessary entry into Ohio’s foster care system.”

Reese expressed hope that the revolutionary concept of OhioRISE will help agencies like hers serve more children in their homes and avoid placing children out of state. “When we send kids out of state, they lose their school, their community, their church, their physicians and their family,” she said. “I am hopeful that OhioRISE will provide opportunities to partner with children services to determine the right level of care for children, ensure access to community-based treatment services and, when needed, in-state residential treatment services.”

Sausser concluded that treating children with severe behavioral health problems could not be a more urgent, prudent or cost-saving policy decision for the state of Ohio. “The pandemic has reduced children’s access to behavioral health services and exacerbated stresses for isolated kids and families,” she said. “Now is the time to boldly reimagine Ohio’s Medicaid managed care program so that youth with mood disorders, suicidal tendencies or autism are guaranteed the same access to treatment as those with serious physical ailments. OhioRISE will provide this opportunity.”