Counties Question Mental Health Funding After Medi-Cal Switch
County health departments are concerned about funding for mental health services after the state shifts children enrolled in Healthy Families to Medi-Cal, HealthyCal reports (Graebner, HealthyCal, 12/4).
Healthy Families is California's Children's Health Insurance Program and Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
In October, California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley announced that the state is moving forward with plans to shift about 863,000 children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal next year.
Dooley said that the transition will help streamline and simplify government health care programs for California children.
Eliminating Healthy Families is estimated to reduce state spending by $13 million this fiscal year and $73 million annually after the transition is finished, according the state.
The Department of Health Care Services said it plans to move all children enrolled in Healthy Families into Medi-Cal by Sept. 1, 2013.
The beneficiaries are expected to be moved in four phases, depending on whether their physicians and health plans already accept Medi-Cal (California Healthline, 11/29).
Details of Concerns
Certain mental health workers and patient advocates believe that children will have better access to mental health services after they are transitioned to Medi-Cal.
However, some county officials are concerned about the state's recent decision to give counties a set amount of sales tax revenue to fund mental health services following the transition.
The funding will be based on estimated mental health needs, but counties argue that the funding might not be able to keep pace with the growing need for services.
Carmella Gutierrez -- president of Californians for Patient Care, a not-for-profit patient advocacy organization -- said, "To have counties responsible for providing care for their residents seems to make sense." However, she said, "[t]he concern is with the funding."
Patricia Ryan -- executive director of the California Mental Health Directors Association -- said that if counties do not receive enough funding to provide mental health care services, they might have to redirect county funds from other programs for indigent individuals or from child welfare or adult protective services.Norman Williams -- deputy director of the Office of Public Affairs at DHCS -- said that the state believes the funding will be adequate. He added, "The state will monitor expenditures in this funding category to determine if adjustments are needed on a prospective basis" (HealthyCal, 12/4). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.