SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) – Illinois is ramping up efforts to place children under its care in other states to prevent them from having to stay in mental institutions longer than necessary, but some providers in other states won’t take the kids because of Illinois’ poor record of payment.
Recent controversies over Illinois’ youth-in-care being locked up in mental health facilities longer than they need to be has led to a state push to place these kids in other states, officials said Monday. This, they said, is a better alternative to spending longer periods in an institution.
“Obviously we want to pursue every possibility,” said Neil Skene, special assistant to the director of Department of Child and Family Services. “There may be a mix of a behavioral health need and a physical need that cannot be met in the state.”
Skene said 52 minors under Illinois stewardship are currently placed outside the state, 37 in contiguous states and 15 placed more than 150 miles from the Illinois border. A report by ProPublica in June showed that hundreds of children are held in mental institutions longer than is deemed medically necessary on an annual basis.
Skene and other providers said that parents of institutionalized children will often refuse to take their children back, creating an immediate need for placement.
Placement of a child outside of the state may not always sound like an ideal alternative, but in Southeastern Illinois, placement just across the border in the Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village is closer than a facility in Chicago. Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village, however, won’t take in children from Illinois.
“Our reluctance in pursuing a contract is really related to the delays in payment that appear to be systemic with the state of Illinois,” said Lynne Rump, director at the facility. “For us to incur delays in payment really places pressure on our cash flow.”
Skene said payment can either come from the state’s coffers or dedicated Medicaid funds, but contract payment is handled by the state comptroller.
Further north, Jane Dobbins, executive director of Group Homes for Children, a group home for teenage girls in Lafayette, Indiana, said the organization was currently at capacity, but would likely decline a request by the state of Illinois due to its history of delaying payment to service providers for weeks, or even months.
“It would be very difficult for us to survive something like that,” she said.
The hesitation was, in part, brought about by Illinois’ historic budget impasse, where providers went months without payment. Rump said her facility has assessed whether it could accept cases originating from across the state line annually for the past 15 years, but hasn’t “found the business climate in Illinois to be particularly attractive over that time span and it’s almost entirely linked to payment history.”
Andrea Durbin, CEO of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, said she’s been contacted by other providers in Indiana about whether or not they should take in Illinois’ youth-in-care to get them out of mental health facilities.
“These Indiana organizations are asking me, Is it safe to contract with the state of Illinois? Will we be paid?” Durbin said. “This is just one symptom of what happens when the state is not a good business partner.”
Illinois’ Medicaid program has been criticized for leaving many of the state’s most-vulnerable in need of services while expanding services to the able-bodied.
When told about the providers refusing Illinois’ wards due to poor payment schedules, Skene said that he had not heard about it but would look into whether other officials there had been given that reason for declining to take Illinois’ youth.