Ohio’s recently passed two-year budget provides for more care for the state’s children in need, the state’s Medicaid director said.

The biennial budget for the Ohio Department of Medicaid, which includes federal funding, puts specific emphasis on programming for children, said Maureen Corcoran, the state’s Medicaid director.

The overall Medicaid budget is $25.3 billion for 2020, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2019, and $27.2 billion for 2021. That includes an increase over the two-year period of $166.8 million for children's programming.

That’s unusual compared to previous administrations' budgets, which tended to direct more dollars toward populations that cost more health care dollars, such as the elderly, said Corcoran. Medicaid offers health coverage for much of the state's poor, kids and the elderly.

“The governor was very clear in introducing the budget that ... now is the time to invest, and he was very clear in looking at investments that are not just with a one-year or two-year return on it,” Corcoran said during a stop at the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com offices Thursday morning before a day of local meetings with area lawmakers andthose working in health care.

Some of the programs and additional funding Corcoran highlighted are:

• $47 million new dollars for maternal and infant support. This would boost already existing programs across the state that offer home visits geared toward making sure pregnant women are getting the correct prenatal care and reducing infant mortality rates. Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and other area leaders have placed a special emphasis on reducing infant mortality rates. The Summit County Health Department reports there are 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in Summit County. In West Akron, the infant mortality rate is 12.1 deaths per 1,000 live births — a rate that is among the worst in the state.

In the Akron area,  community health workers — like those used by Project Ujima and Summa's Equity Health Center, as well some of the other “nontraditional” services for pregnant and postpartum women and infants — could be part of Medicaid’s new program, said Marisa Weisel, deputy director of strategic initiatives for the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

• A new program has received $15.6 million to offer residential treatment drug and alcohol services for moms and their newborns who are both in recovery for substance abuse, particularly opioid addictions. Currently, there are two separate and existing programs. One is for newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), weaning them from withdrawal symptoms. Another offers residential care for mothers suffering from withdrawal. But the programs mean mothers and newborns are separated, Corcoran said. The new programming could be expanded at facilities that already offer services to drug-addicted mothers before they have their babies to allow the newborns to be with their mothers after their hospital stay.

• There has been an increase in behavioral and mental health programming, Corcoran said, including an additional $50 million increase in rates for behavioral health treatment providers for mental health and substance abuse care. Weisel said local providers that might be positively impacted could be Minority Behavioral Health Group and Coleman Professional Services.

• $15 million to develop a behavioral health telehealth initiative in the school systems to offer a program for youth to access mental health care, particularly those in rural areas without easy access to a specialist.

• An additional $12 million will also be spent on existing child health-screening programs through primary care physicians, including early intervention efforts such as lead-poisoning prevention.

To find out more about Medicaid programs or when the new programs are available, go to www.ohiomh.com/home/contactus or call the consumer hotline at 800-324-8680.

 

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher