North Carolina’s move to Medicaid Managed Care – a system where tax dollars are spent on quality outcomes rather than the volume of tests and services – was one of the best and most important healthcare changes for the state in recent memory.

Thankfully, the Cooper Administration and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is following the same path for the state’s foster care system.

In a concept paper released in February, the department outlines that it intends to put a single statewide plan in place. This will provide children and families, regardless of their geographic location, with access to a “broad range of physical health, behavioral health, pharmacy, long-term services and supports, Intellectual/Developmental Disability services, and resources to address unmet health-related needs.

The goal of this change is to bring a “high level of multisector coordination aimed at preserving families and supporting reunification and permanency.

Currently, children and families in foster care are subject to a regional system but often move across regions, causing services and care to be disrupted, duplicated or both.  

Not only is this fractured system wasteful, it is devastating to children and families caught in the middle.

DHHS has found that “[o]ne of the most significant challenges to service delivery for children, youth and families served by the child welfare system is disruption in provider relationships” due to the regional nature of the system.  

Moving to a statewide plan will “enable children, youth and families to access a continuous, broad range of physical and behavioral health services regardless of their location in the state.”

It will also allow children and families to “maintain their provider and care manager relationships and their treatment plans when they experience a change in placement or care transition.”

On top of the improved care coordination and more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, parents of children in the foster care system will also be eligible for care.

This is crucial because, as reports show, parents of these children are at a significantly heightened risk of physical and behavioral health needs.  

“Family preservation,” it has been shown, requires access to care that promotes “positive outcomes and family well-being, including behavioral health services, SUD treatment, parent skill-building programs and connections to health-related resources such as food and housing.”

The current foster care system is broken. Tax dollars being used inefficiently, and children and families are caught in a fractured system that prevents them from getting the coordinated care they need.

DHHS has a good plan for how to solve it. It’s a proven model that is already working with Medicaid Managed Care.

Now it is time to move forward to transform and improve foster care.

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