Medicaid waiver could help with Rosecrance shortfall

SPRINGFIELD – Rosecrance could get some future financial relief through federal funding, according to State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). The state plans to pursue federal approval for a Medicaid waiver that would bring $2.7 billion in new federal dollars to help care for persons with mental illness and those battling substance abuse problems, benefiting as many as 800,000 Illinois residents with behavioral health issues. Some of that funding would likely be heading to Rosecrance and their Triage program.

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), along with Gordon Eggers from Crusader Clinic, served on the bipartisan task force that reviewed and developed the details of the Federal 115 Waiver that is being submitted.

“This waiver, if approved, could help provide a critical lifeline to an immensely important local facility,” said Senator Syverson. “This would be a major boost in our efforts to secure long-term funding for Rosecrance triage program.”

The waiver is particularly important to Rockford because the waiver the way it was drafted would allow programs like those offered at Triage center to be covered under Medicaid. Under current law, triage is not a Medicaid-covered service, so finding a permanent funding stream for Rosecrance has been difficult.

The waiver would not expand Medicaid eligibility, but would allow the state to provide health-care assistance to many individuals currently living without much-needed treatment or assistance. Twenty-five percent of the state’s 3.2 million Medicaid residents live with mental health issues, substance dependency issues or both, and they account for 56 percent of all Medicaid spending. 

“While getting Medicaid approval for triage services will help with the Rosecrance program funding, it would only cover a portion of the cost,” said Senator Syverson. “We will still need to find additional funding to help close the gap and keep the program operating. Additionally, the federal funds would not take effect until 2017, so they wouldn’t help cover the shortfall for 2016.”

The Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services said that the waiver would amount to a 3.75 percent overall increase in state Medicaid spending over a five-year period.  The additional financial support for employment and housing services would bring greater stability to many Medicaid recipients, which would greatly improve their quality of life. The waiver would also ensure individuals have access to the right type of care at the right time in the right setting, rather than “boarding” individuals with behavioral issues in emergency departments, hospitals or prisons due to the lack of a suitable care provider.

Sara Howe, chief executive officer of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, was quoted in the State Journal-Register as saying that the waiver proposal shows “a really strong vision for behavioral health” that is “decades ahead of where we’ve been.”

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