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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Denials of service,’ ‘Parents need a voice,’ Expanding Medicaid…

Among those testifying at this morning’s Health & Welfare listening session at the state Capitol:

Jessica Chilcott, a social worker from Sagle, expressed concerns about Optum, the company the state Department of Health & Welfare contracts with for behavioral health services. “A basic Google search will reveal that they are causing difficulties in every state in which they are providing services, with access to services, with denials of service. You can see it in New Mexico, you can see it in Salt Lake City, and you can certainly see it in Idaho.” She said, “The process for appealing a denial is very arduous for the families and also for the agencies.” She said Optum requires providers like her to provide care coordination, but won’t pay them for that time. “We would really like to be fairly compensated for our work,” she said. “Many of our grievances and complaints are just not being responded to.”

Brenda Smith of Rexburg, the adoptive mother of a child with serious mental health issues, said, “I can guarantee our child is headed for jail - it’s only a matter of time before his impulsive behavior will catch up with him, and it’s not for lack of parenting.” She said parents like her “are lucky to have someone to cover for them if they have to go to the grocery store. If you want to know what is missing in our mental health services, these parents are the ones that you need to go to.” Expressing frustration with the services the state approves, she said, “Using one set of data-driven best practices to treat all of our children is like clothing all of our troops in down coats and snowshoes.” But some are being raised in the figurative tropics, she said. State-approved treatments haven’t helped her son, she said, but weekly neuro-feedback treatments her family is obtaining at its own expense, and driving 45 minutes away to obtain, have. “Parents need a voice and a choice in the services that fit their circumstances, and they need it as soon as they recognize there’s  a problem,” she said.

Five people have testified about expansion of Medicaid so far, four in favor and one against. Among those in favor were a parent, a business owner, the president of the AFL-CIO and the director of the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians. Speaking against was a representative of the Foundation for Government Accountability from Florida.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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