Arkansas Public Health Committee Considers Proposal for Schools to Provide Mental Health Services to Medicaid-Eligible Students:
The Arkansas Legislature's Public Health Committee is considering a proposal that would allow the state's schools to receive Medicaid funds to finance on-campus mental health services for Medicaid-eligible students, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The plan would allow schools to provide mental health services to eligible students on campus, at home or at other designated sites. Through Medicaid, the federal government would contribute an estimated $13 million in the first year of the program, while the state's cost would be $4.8 million. The state Department of Human Services introduced the proposal at a Sept. 27 public hearing, and since then, the plan has been under review by the Public Health Committee. However, state Sen. Dave Bisbee (R), who co-chairs the Human Services Subcommittee on Education, suggested that the proposal should be referred to the Education Committee "because of an implicit relation to education," the Democrat-Gazette reports. But Public Health Committee members on Nov. 20 agreed to retain the proposal "because of limited time before the coming legislative session," the Democrat-Gazette reports. In addition, state Rep. Randy Laverty (D) said that transferring the issue to the Education Committee "would needlessly delay legislative action" because discussion of the issue "would essentially start again at square one," the Democrat-Gazette reports. During the Nov. 20 hearing, the Public Health Committee failed to reach a conclusion concerning the proposal itself. The committee did hear 90 minutes of testimony from individuals such as state Medicaid Director Ray Hanley, a proponent of the plan. Any possible action on the plan has been delayed until the committee's Nov. 27 meeting. The plan was originally set to take effect Nov. 1, but was pushed back to Jan. 1 after several mental health groups raised concerns about student confidentiality safeguards. Hanley said last week that the plan is now projected to take effect Feb. 1 (Rowett, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.