About time. Gov. Mike Beebe steps out publicly on something with a tinge of controversy. He issued a news release today that it's time to appoint a commission to review mental health care for children. He should have started this push months ago, when a legislative committee heard Arkansas had become a bonanza for providers, to the extent that we funnel $240 million in Medicaid money into the programs, four times what is spent in much larger Ohio.
Today's Insider mentions a bill to increase the spending even more, a bill backed by, among others, Ted Suhl, the operator of the Lord's Ranch, an influential political player thanks to tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions, not to mention the providing of jet service to Gov. Mike Huckabee. The Beebe administration, which had no input, opposes it, as do a number of advocates for children, who'd like to see more community care for children as opposed to residential facilities.
Is it too late to stop the gravy train? Apparently it's so not too late. Brummett Blog says the bills to make Ted Suhl even richer were abandoned this morning and that the Beebe approach is now taking center stage.
Can Ginger Beebe on mental health care become what Hillary Clinton was on education for an earlier governor? We should hope so. Beebe news release on the jump.
MIKE BEEBE NEWS RELEASE
Governor Mike Beebe today called for the creation of a commission to review the mental-health care of Arkansas children and make recommendations to improve the system that serves them.
“As a state, Arkansas has too many children in residential treatment for mental-health care,” Beebe said. “This arrangement drains state resources without providing reliable information about how effectively that treatment works. We have dedicated and skilled people helping these children, and we need a system that ensures positive results from their efforts.”
Beebe supports House Bill 2358, which would establish a Commission of Care comprised of experts in children’s mental-health issues to examine the current system and recommend reforms. In addition, First Lady Ginger Beebe will conduct a statewide listening tour later this spring, talking to families who have firsthand experience with state care to hear their personal experiences with the current system.
Arkansas currently spends $240 million in Medicaid funds every year on mental-health care for children, a total that has doubled in four years. Ohio, a state with four times as many children, spends less than Arkansas. Much of the expenditure is due to the large number of children who go into residential treatment.
Beebe believes the proposed commission will help find additional positive treatment options that effectively help children.
“Arkansas must reduce its dependency on inpatient care that limits the number of children the state can afford to help,” Beebe added. “While that care is necessary in some cases, we need to explore other forms of treatment to strengthen our children’s mental health.”