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Kentucky Youth Advocates applauds CHFS for leveraging federal funds for school health services

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, applauds the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, for leveraging federal funds to provide much-needed health services to students in a school setting.

The Kentucky General Assembly gave Kentucky kids a historic win when it passed Senate Bill 1, the School Safety and Resiliency Act.

“Approval of this amendment is a game-changer,” said CHFS Secretary Adam Meier. “This will provide additional resources to support increased access to mental health services for students using money already being spent by school districts.”

Children with Medicaid coverage often do not receive needed health care services due to barriers to seeking care, such as lack of transportation, parent work schedules, or finding a nearby provider who accepts Medicaid.

“This exciting change will be instrumental in providing additional physical and mental health resources to students,” said Wayne Lewis, Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education.

Historically, schools were only able to bill Medicaid if the services were outlined in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Services like mental health assessments, mental health counseling, speech therapy, or nurse services provided to children at school without an IEP were not billable. The amendment will now allow additional services provided at no cost to be covered by Medicaid for eligible students.

“We at Kentucky Youth Advocates were impressed at the General Assembly’s attention to issues like infrastructure protections and research-based protocols for school-based law enforcement,” Brooks said. “But what really animated us about SB 1 was the consensus from legislators, other elected officials, law enforcement, and educators that behavioral health services were the key element to short and long-term school safety and the well-being of our young people.

“And yet, there remained a haunting question: how were we going to pay for it?”

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) seized on a previously untapped opportunity, known as Free Care, to amend the state’s Medicaid plan to allow school districts to utilize federal Medicaid funding to expand school-based health services and connect more Kentucky students with the preventive health and behavioral health services they need.

“The importance of preventive health and behavioral health services is undeniable as is the insight to provide them in schools to maximize students’ access,” said Brooks. “Ensuring children have these services not only positively impacts health, it is a catalyst to better academic achievement and even better school environment.”

Brooks applauded CHFS for leveraging these federal funds to provide much-needed health services to students right in the school setting, such as comprehensive health screenings, therapy services, and more.

With this week’s announcement of approval from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of this proposal, the promise of SB 1 last spring can become a 2020 reality for schools, kids, and families across Kentucky.

CHFS and KDE will provide additional information to health care providers and school districts in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, the state is providing superintendents information on program requirements and operational procedures to support improved health care access for students.

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