Following Gov. Mark Gordon's request for an additional $500 million funding cut, the Wyoming Department of Health has come up with a way to shave close to $47 million from its general fund budget.
About $3 million of that proposed reduction comes from the elimination of a program that provides care coordination for children with complex mental, emotional and behavioral health needs.
The department partners with Wyoming Medicaid and Megellan, a private healthcare company, to offer families what are called High Fidelity Wraparound Services. It provides mental and physical healthcare, along with other supports, that allow children to stay in their homes and in their schools.
The department is worried that if the legislature approves the cut, it may lead to an increase in the number of children who are institutionalized among other problems.
Stefan Johansson, Department of Health Deputy Director, told Wyoming's Joint Appropriation Committee (JAC) that the cut has implications for the Department of Family Services as well, because the agency pays for placements at residential treatment facilities.
"Obviously with some of the children and families they provide services to there's an overlap here," said Johansson. "So from the Department of Family Services perspective this is also a concerning reduction."
Shannon Davis, an independent provider of wraparound services, is against the elimination of the program. She told the JAC that investing in community-based support for at-risk youth may save the state money down the road.
"Ultimately, when we start hitting stuff at the base of the tree we're going to see that over time costs are going to decrease," said Davis. "We're not going to be seeing as many kids going into residential facilities or staying there as long."
According to Magellan the cost of High Fidelity Wraparound Services is just under $15,000 a year per child, whereas placement at a psychiatric residential treatment costs close to $58,000.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics noted that investing in community-based wraparound support was found to decrease mental health care costs in the long term.
Lawmakers will finalize budget cuts during the upcoming legislative session.