Children experiencing foster care often need extensive mental health services to help bring healing from the trauma they may have experienced in their bio families and as a result of being placed in foster care. Many TACFS member organizations provide high quality mental health services including therapy and behavior management to children and families in schools, in their homes, or remotely through telehealth.
Throughout this year’s legislative session, TACFS is advocating for programs that effectively respond to crises and equip organizations with the resources they need to provide a continuum of needed mental health services. We are calling on legislators to:
- Help improve the utilization of crisis intervention services
- Streamline the process of becoming a Medicaid-credentialed provider of Senate Bill 58 services to enhance availability
- Create a method whereby private providers are reimbursed for Wraparound Services to stabilize placements and enhance natural supports within the family
Additional challenges facing TACFS member organizations include workforce shortages and inadequate funding levels.
Pathways Youth & Family Services is a child-placing agency with offices around the state. Pathways it provides psychiatric care and counseling services to about 2,500 youth at a time, but along with other behavioral health providers, it struggles to meet the demand.
“If the reimbursement rates were more competitive, providers would have a better chance of competing for qualified therapists to serve the foster care population,” said Stacey Lofstad, Pathways’ State Director of Behavioral Health Services.
Another challenge is providing consistent and stable care is the mobility of the population.
“Our behavioral health teams are not only trying to help the children work through their past trauma, but we are also trying to arm the families with the tools and strategies that they need so placements are stable and children don’t move over and over,” Lofstad said.
Another challenge facing behavioral health providers is the credentialing requirements. For example, Pathways is credentialed to provide behavioral health services for children in foster care through Medicaid, but the credentialing process is difficult to navigate. TACFS hopes to work with legislators this year to bring about a review of the credentialing process, with the ultimate goal of allowing more community-based organizations to provide these types of services.
TACFS also supports increased funding for the RTC (Residential Treatment Center) Project at HHSC. This is a program targeted to keep youth in crisis or with significant behavioral health needs out of foster care through short-term intensive treatment and support for families.
Finally, we believe that increases in rates for foster care will better position organizations to provide, and connect children with, the mental health services they need.