Wyoming’s Labor, Health, and Human Services Committee this month approved a bill that would allow private medical providers to apply for more federal Medicaid money to support psychiatric residential treatment facilities across the country. State.
The proposal received “yes” votes from the two Fremont County lawmakers on the committee: Wyoming Representatives Andi LeBeau, D-Ethete, and Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton.
“That sounds really good,” Ottman said when discussing the bill. “I mean, just for everyone to look at the problem and be like, ‘OK, these are things that we can work together and do.'”
The legislation would authorize the Wyoming Department of Health to collect fees from private medical providers in the state and then use that money to generate federal matching funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to benefit the two treatment facilities. residential psychiatric home for adolescents in Wyoming: the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper and St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Torrington.
“It’s a way without a general fund to increase cost coverage,” said WDH Director Stefan Johansson, noting that similar programs already exist in Wyoming to support nursing homes and “a variety of other service providers”.
Of all these programs, “this is perhaps one of the most important,” said Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association.
“The mental and behavioral health crisis in our country and in our state is terrible,” Boley said. “It’s one of the worst we’ve ever seen.”
Part of the problem is that facilities like WBI and St. Joseph’s don’t have enough staff to accept all the patients who could benefit from their services, Boley said.
“Staffing…continues to be a little challenging,” St. Joseph’s chief financial officer Ronda Meyer said. “We are licensed for 62 beds, but at the moment we can only serve between 36 and 40 (patients), and that’s due to staffing issues.”
Boley said staff leave primarily “because they can get higher salaries elsewhere.”
“We can’t afford those (higher salaries),” he said, pointing to the gap between medical costs and Medicaid reimbursements. “There’s not enough money (when) you get paid less than your costs.”
The majority of WBI and St. Joseph’s patients are on Medicaid.
The state could increase its own Medicaid reimbursement rate, Boley noted, “but that seems like something we’re not willing to do.”
“So we came up with our own solution, and that’s to assess ourselves,” he said. “We have the private hospitals on board – they want to be part of this…because it’s so important.”
Staffing shortages in residential psychiatric care facilities have caused “some serious situations in our state,” Boley explained, “clogging our emergency rooms” and forcing patients to be held “in places where they don’t receive the kind of treatment they really need.”
He recalled a patient who was housed in a hospital emergency room for 70 days while waiting for a bed in a residential treatment facility.
In Fremont County, Ottman said she knew of another patient who spent 45 days in the emergency room waiting to be placed elsewhere.
“It’s because there’s no place to go,” Boley said.
Johansson estimated that the new program supporting psychiatric residential treatment facilities could generate an additional $3.85 million in federal funds for Wyoming.
This funding will do “a lot (to) help,” Boley said.
“It’s such a vital tool to help (these facilities) be solvent and maybe able to stem some of the bleeding and bring in additional staff,” he said. “I would just like to ask (you) to help us ourselves – or if you are unwilling to do so, we would ask you to increase the general fund allocated to reimburse these providers.”
The labor committee voted 11 to 2 to support the bill.