Program for at-risk children coming soon

More than two years after its launch, a state program designed to provide better, more coordinated services for Louisiana’s at-risk children and youth is still not active statewide.

The idea behind the Jindal administration initiative is to provide community care for children and youth with mental health and substance abuse problems so they can stay out of institutions, including juvenile detention facilities.

Large regions in south Louisiana have not had the resources to implement the coordinated system of care, a behavioral health initiative privately managed by Magellan.

But that situation is getting ready to change, state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said.

“It took longer to develop it than we thought,” Kliebert said. “Now we do feel we have the other regions ready to implement.”

All that’s needed now is federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS, approval of the expansion, which will bring in Acadiana, the Florida and River parishes, and southwest Louisiana, finishing the job started in March 2012, Kliebert said.

“As soon as we get the approval, we will start implementing by the end of the calendar year,” she said.

Kliebert said the agency has had some questions from CMS. But she said no problems are anticipated with CMS approval since the program is in place in the Baton Rouge and Orleans areas and in north Louisiana.

The Jindal administration initiative pooled funding from a variety of agencies that interface with the population, including the state departments of Health and Hospitals, Children and Family Services, Education and Juvenile Justice. The idea was to reduce the state’s cost of providing services by leveraging Medicaid and other funding sources.

Kliebert said the state launched the program in areas where it had the resources and community commitments.

“We selected the initial regions because of resources and the variety of services available,” she said.

In other areas, there were significant holes, she said.

“We wanted to make sure we had the capacity in the regions,” Kliebert said.

She said the state had to work on collaboration among courts, district attorneys and sheriffs as well as development of providers who could provide home- and community-based services.

She said there needed to be more understanding of what agencies were available and “how to get kids referred.”

“We have been working in those regions for the last year or so,” Kliebert said.

The state must demonstrate to CMS the availability of resources. Kliebert said recruiting would be ongoing.