Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will resolve child mental health lawsuit in 2018

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to settle a 2018 family lawsuit alleging that their children were inappropriately treated for significant mental health problems.

Sad child; Image courtesy of Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

The parties signed a preliminary settlement agreement in August and are currently developing a plan to improve mental and behavioral health care for Michigan children enrolled with Medicaid and part of the child welfare system.

Michigan families continue to face hurdles when it comes to mentally caring for children during a time of crisis, said Kyle Williams, head of disability litigation in Michigan. He was referring to a recent viral video in which a central Michigan father asked for help finding a psychiatric bed for his teenage son who had been in an emergency room for over a week.

“It’s a story we hear regularly,” he said. “Children are in crisis, they don’t have what they need to support them in their home or community. Parents have two options: you can take them to an emergency room or call the police. “

Williams is a senior attorney in the KB v Lyon case.

A key goal of the families involved in the lawsuit is to ensure that children have access to psychiatric treatment at home or in their communities rather than relying on prisons, emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals.

“If you can address these community crises, and if you can give these children what they need to be in the least restrictive environment, then your success will be … fewer children in mental hospitals,” he said . “And if they go to psychiatric hospitals, they will spend less time there.”

Under the August Accord, the state committed to providing a range of intensive home and community mental health services to children in need.

The state will also develop a plan detailing how these services will be provided, including making sure there are enough providers across Michigan and measuring the quality of care.

The implementation plan should be ready by April, according to a budget presentation that DHHS officials submitted to the House budget health and human services subcommittee in early March.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive budget plan for the coming fiscal year is nearly $ 91 million, with $ 30 million from the general fund to help cover costs associated with the settlement and provide better access to behavioral health services for children who are enrolled in Medicaid and are involved in Medicaid’s child welfare system.

Department spokesman Bob Wheaton said officials were unable to comment on the lawsuit, which is still under trial.

In 2018, the state moved the lawsuit to be dismissed and successfully dismissed some parts of the original complaint.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Ludington agreed to dismiss arguments such as plaintiffs’ allegation that the state violated portions of the U.S. Code in 2019. He said the state continues to fund medical services even when those services are not provided, as the state contracts prepaid health insurance plans to administer Medicaid, in violation of the U.S. Code.

However, Ludington noted that the state is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Medicaid recipients, including children with serious mental health problems, receive services, even if it hires contractors.

Because the children and young adults involved in the lawsuit were Medicaid recipients, Plaintiffs argued the state was bound by Medicaid law to screen them for health issues, including mental and developmental issues, and to identify services that are available to treat these issues during screening.

The seven children involved in the lawsuit, which Williams said attorneys hope will become a class action lawsuit, were approved by the state to receive intensive home and community psychiatric services but were unable to actually access them.

Instead, the families went months or years without adequate treatment for their children hopping between emergency rooms and their homes where they risked harming themselves or their families.

A 20-year-old man from Ingham County with “significant mental health needs” waited at least nine months for psychiatric services after the state approves his application for treatment. He was bullied at school and isolated without the services “at home because of his fear and trauma,” according to the 2018 complaint.

A 12-year-old Iron County girl who was in and out of the emergency room injured herself and her mother at the time of the complaint pending hospitalization.

Her mother “has repeatedly advocated intensive home and community service, but has either been turned down, advised that the services do not exist, or has offered minimal services due to a lack of availability or resources in the county,” it says the complaint. The girl’s mother had been advised to foster her daughter so that she could receive the services she needed.

Some of the children have not been approved for Medicaid since the lawsuit was filed, Williams said, but he argued that they represent many other Michigan children and young adults in need of better service.



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