Friday, October 4, 2013

Staying Open During the Shutdown

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Four days into the federal government shutdown, ramifications are now impacting some of DC's most vulnerable residents: those with mental illness and developmental disabilities. 
The people we serve simply can't wait
a day for the mental health services they need.

Yesterday the DC Department of Health Care Finance announced agencies like Catholic Charities that provide behavioral health services, care for those with developmental disabilities and primary health care will not be reimbursed by Medicaid or local DC dollars until the government shutdown ends or a DC budget is approved by Congress.

This is a situation unique to DC, where congress must approve the budget before any money can be spent. And while DC DHCF has pledged to reimburse all billings once a budget is approved or the shutdown ends, provider agencies will need to have the cash-flow on hand to meet all costs.

For Catholic Charities, that means covering an additional $25,000 each day so services like our Behavioral Health Program continue uninterrupted to the 1,000 people with mental illness whom we help with services including counseling, mobile crisis response, and specialized care for children in crisis. 

Many of those served by our Behavioral Health Program simply cannot afford expensive mental health care without the assistance of Medicaid. A large portion has been or currently is homeless. Any disruption in their service or care can cause major setbacks in helping them progress toward a healthier lifestyle. 

"It is not an option for us to simply stop our services - people need help today," said Msgr. John Enzler, our President and CEO. "With DC Medicaid suspended, we will bear the full cost to keep serving our consumers...but we can't do it forever."

Catholic Charities also provides a host of services for more than 750 children and adults living with a developmental disability, including Early Head Start, specialized child care, K-12 education, support for independent living, and round-the-clock care for individuals with more severe disabilities.

Though our services will continue without interruption for as long as possible, other providers with whom or  our clients depend may not fare so well. "We're just one piece of the puzzle in serving this vulnerable population," Father John said. "One particular concern of ours is where clients will be able to get their medication prescriptions filled. Some providers may not be able to bear the cost - even on a temporary basis."

Catholic Charities' Behavioral Health program, formerly known as Anchor Mental Health, has been recognized as a four-star provider by the DC government two years in a row.

Catholic Charities' Developmental Disabilities Department, formerly know as the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, supports individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities overcome challenges and social stigmas to strive toward a fulfilling life and play a valuable role in their community.