Little Rock mental health care provider Youth Home is laying off 31 of its 227 employees because of a “challenging health care climate in the state,” the company announced in a press release Wednesday (Jan. 23).
The company is laying off administrative and direct-care staff working mostly in its residential psychiatric care program at its 52-acre campus on Colonel Glenn Road. It is closing one residential cottage and reducing available beds by 12. Four houses will remain open along with a community-based care residence for teenagers living in its Beth Cartwright House.
The press release said Medicaid has not increased reimbursements since 2001, leading to the program losing money for more than a decade. The company said it has tried to close the gap through fundraising and by developing other programs.
Begun in 1966, Youth Home provides adolescent residential treatment, community based treatment, outpatient, and school-based programs. The program serves adult clients through its Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas outpatient clinic in Little Rock.
“These steps do not necessarily mean our organization will stop losing money, but it does ensure that our mission can continue on a slightly smaller scale for some time to come,” CEO David Napier said in the release. “This slows the financial loss, and these painful cuts allow us the opportunity to reorganize, reserve resources, explore new programs, and continue to provide a broad range of vital services for families from all over the state.”
The layoffs will occur by March 1. The company said it will help those employees by organizing job fairs, assisting with resumes, and in some cases providing severance packages. Youth Home is continuing to look for other program offerings and revenues to reopen the 12 beds.
“The need for our services has not diminished, and neither has our commitment to fulfilling our mission,” Napier said in the release. “We will continue to serve and advocate for those families impacted by mental illness. I want to encourage anyone passionate about this topic or concerned with the direction things are going in our state in regards to available services for the mentally ill to stay informed, get involved, and to consider ways you might support organizations like Youth Home.”
A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Human Services tells Talk Business & Politics that the lack of increase in reimbursement rates is mainly due to efforts to broaden the accessibility of more home- and community-based treatment settings for children and youth. In essence, DHS has been trying to stretch existing dollars further.
Marci Manley, DHS deputy chief of communications, provided this explanation to TB&P:
“The focus of the Arkansas Department of Human Services has been to expand services in home- and community-based settings for children and youth in an effort to shift from a reliance on long-term residential settings to a move to provide services in the least restrictive setting. Therefore, reimbursement rates for long-term residential treatment facilities for youth and children have not seen an increase.
“We have focused our investments in developing and providing services in the least restrictive settings, to hopefully prevent the development of chronic, long-term mental health needs that residential services often serve by making access to outpatient services available to children and youth, in addition to increasing providers in that field across the state.
“In the development of the Outpatient Behavioral Health program for outpatient counseling services and the Provider-led Arkansas Shared Savings Entity (PASSE) program to serve clients with higher mental health needs, the goal has been to expand access and providers in the community to offer a continuum of care to prevent the need for long-term residential facilities.
“DHS also anticipates that the PASSE program will offer flexibility for PASSEs to contract with residential service providers to provide specialized services, allow PASSEs to incentivize providers with rates based on outcomes or other factors that might allow for higher, value-based rates for individual providers; and allow providers to transition residential facilities to other services.
“‘Demand’ for a service is difficult to determine accurately, however given the emphasis and shift to make home- and community-based services available and more accessible, the need for residential services could likely become more specialized. By offering a wider range of services from counseling, high need, and residential, we hope to ensure that children and youth receive the right level of services in the right setting at the right time.”