OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is proposing a policy change where it would no longer cover private counseling sessions.
This change would dramatically impact foster parents and children in foster care.
It was over a year ago that Angie Tarrant and her husband became foster parents, taking in children with a history of abuse and neglect.
“We are talking screaming. I would have to hold her. It could last an hour and a half,” said Tarrant.
It was behavior Angie wasn’t sure how to handle.
“When the switch flipped, there was no defusing it,” she said.
It wasn’t until she got a call from Anna’s House, a nonprofit that works with foster families, that she learned about a counseling method. It’s called the ‘Halo project.’
“We got started in the program. It’s a 10-week intensive program. They have a buddy, so it’s fun. The parents are upstairs and we are receiving the same training,” she said.
Ten weeks later, she says the difference was clear.
“We had zero tantrums. It was incredible, it was a 180 in our child,” said Tarrant.
It’s a difference maker for many foster kids, but something they may not have access to in the future.
A proposed policy change would end Medicaid payments for private counselors like those in the ‘Halo project.’
“If we can’t support the foster families that we already have, it’s really a losing battle,” said Darci Oplotnik. “70 percent are coming in due to neglect and because of that they are going to have behaviors and they are going to need services.”
According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the cuts are necessary to balance its budget.
OHCA hopes to save $9.7 million a year.
Angie says those savings come at the expense of kids who need the most help.
“It’s heartbreaking because we were at a point where we didn’t know if we could keep doing this,” said Tarrant.
The policy change proposal is scheduled to be presented to the Medical Advisory Committee on Jan. 21 and the (OHCA) Board of Directors on Feb. 11.