Yesterday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced that it entered into another contract amendment with KVC on December 24th to infuse an additional $1.8 million into the state’s failing child welfare privatization effort even as the the Legislature’s HHS Committee had just the week before released recommendations to make significant changes to the system, implement oversight, and put a strategic plan into place. Rebecca L. Gould, Executive Director of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, issued the following statement today in response:
“At a time when there are numerous priorities competing for limited taxpayer dollars, the Governor’s and the Department’s decision to make an additional payout appears to be throwing money at a failing system and does not secure any meaningful change for children and families. At a moment when the Governor has raised the issue of how real reform can be paid for, an important question is where did this money come from and how was the decision made to use these critical resources to prop up an unworkable system.
It is also troubling that this contract infusion comes on the heels of the HHS Committee of the Legislature’s LR 37 report, which after a thorough analysis, made recommendations that the state take back case management and to increase financial monitoring of child welfare dollars. Instead of the Department’s current approach, we agree with the legislative committee that we need to make smart investments with a plan that will produce improved outcomes for children and families. This should include, among other things, rebuilding and creating an adequate service array, including prevention and wraparound services.
For example, to the extent that the additional funding was intended to address shortfalls resulting from lack of Medicaid coverage of certain services, this $1.8 million payment to KVC will not solve the problem. A systemic solution is needed to address the cost-shifting from Medicaid to child welfare, to eliminate overly restrictive Medicaid policies that deny children medically necessary treatments recommended by their treating providers, and to fill gaps in the state’s children’s behavioral health system.
As the Legislative session begins this week, it is time to put an end to the ineffective and disjointed approach to child welfare reform and implement much needed oversight, transparency, and accountability with a clear plan that involves all branches of government, affected youth and families, and stakeholders. Major policy decisions that impact the well-being of children and the rights of families in the system should be made as part of an accountable process, not in closed-door negotiations. We believe the HHS Committee LR 37 recommendations chart a positive new path for child welfare reform. We hope state leaders will move forward to implement those recommendations and follow the LR 37 Committee’s work to prioritize our children.