Kentucky to expand school-based healthcare services for children

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)- Governor Matt Bevin has announced that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education, will seek an amendment to Kentucky’s Medicaid state plan to provide greater healthcare access to students in schools across the Commonwealth by allowing for the payment of qualifying physical and mental health services.

The proposed amendment allows Kentucky school districts to utilize federal Medicaid funding to provide students enrolled in Medicaid with increased access to school-based healthcare, including mental health services, health screenings, diabetes, and asthma management. Currently, only students enrolled in Medicaid with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) qualify to receive these services.

In a letter sent statewide to all 172 district superintendents, KDE Commissioner Wayne Lewis and Kentucky Medicaid Commissioner Carol Steckel underscored the significance of providing high-quality health services to Kentucky children, noting that these services often address challenges before issues get more serious, require more costly interventions, and potentially put other students at risk.

Given Medicaids historic role in supporting children’s health and educational outcomes, ensuring that all eligible students are enrolled in Medicaid and have access to the school-based health services they need are key strategies to supporting a healthy learning environment and academic success, said Commissioner Lewis. “Many Kentucky school districts have significant financial challenges. The ability to further leverage federal resources to meet students’ health needs permits districts to target teaching and learning with state and local resources.”

According to data submitted in Kentucky’s proposal, the state has 1,688 students per school psychologist, when the national standard recommends 500 to 700. By allowing schools to access funding through the Medicaid program to place eligible health providers in schools and provide services covered under Medicaid, school systems will be able to address disparities in care.

Acute care services can also be provided, such as treatment for asthma. Some school systems already directly employ health professionals to provide these services. Other schools, often in partnership with community organizations, community health centers, hospitals, or local health departments, have established school-based health centers to provide health care services to students.

The Medicaid plan amendment was submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on April 28, 2019. If approved, the goal is to begin this expansion of services and eligible students during the 2019-2020 school year for those school districts who choose to participate.

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