Audit: Mental health privatization increased costs
Senate Bill 460, by state Sen. Robert Deuell , R-Greenville, will implement new requirements for mental health intervention strategies in schools that are intended to help teachers reach out to students who show signs of mental or emotional distress. Until recently, talk about mental health policy in Texas was focused on treating serious mental health disorders rather than on assessing disorders before they escalate without treatment, Saxton said. About 288,000 children live with serious mental health conditions in Texas, according to 2010 figures from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And those students, according to the Alliance, are more likely to drop out of school. Hoping to prevent many of those students from dropping out, Texans Care for Children and a coalition of other groups that promote mental health and disability awareness, including the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health America for Greater Houston, urged legislators this year to consider the need for positive intervention programs and for training educators. Under the new law, school districts will be required to provide teachers, administrators and staff with training on mental health intervention and suicide prevention to help them identify red flags in a childs behavior and respond effectively.
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In some instances, changes in fee schedules, claims handling and coding have led to denial of claims, which then couldn’t be refiled fast enough before billing expiration dates, the audit says. Certain nursing and professional services that had previously been paid are no longer being covered since the privatization. Any lost revenue for the districts can limit their ability to provide health care services. The Capital Area Human Services District, based in Baton Rouge, told auditors that its administrative costs for billing claims have increased $270,000 a year since the privatization took effect because of problems with claims reconciliation and collection. “There were some administrative claims and billing lessons learned by four providers, the human services districts. We worked closely with the districts on solutions. Many changes have already been implemented.
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