On May 23, shortly before the Memorial Day break, the Senate Finance Committee announced a package of 22 bills, (including three on child welfare) that attempt to address the opioid crisis. The bill mainly address the Committee’s jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs but the three bills that deal with child welfare address funding under the Title IV-B programs.
The three bills are: S. 2924, Supporting Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act, sponsored by Senator Tim Scott (R-NC) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), S. 2926, Improving Recovery and Reunifying Families Act sponsored by Senator Menendez and Senator Scott and S. 2923, Building Capacity for Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act, sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley R-IA) and Senator Menendez.
All three bills attempt to build on the Family First Act, in particular the parts that deal with family-based treatment and treatment facilities. The Family First Act allows states to provide foster care maintenance payments for a child considered a candidate for foster care if the child is placed with his/her parent in a family based treatment program. The maintenance payments can be provided to offset the child care while in the facility with a parent for up to twelve months without regard to the current foster care link to the 1996 AFDC (look-back) eligibility standards. In other words regardless of income eligibility restrictions for children in foster care.
The first bill, S 2924 directs HHS to assist states in this part of Family First provisions by providing state instruction and guidance on how to use Medicaid and IV-E funding for these treatment/placements. The challenge right now is that despite the modifications made by Family First, there are a limited number of facilities and beds for these parent-child treatment facilities. Some of the challenges have to do with whether or not treatment centers accept children, have capacity, can handle sibling groups or handle older children.
S. 2926, also builds on a state waiver project that focused on reunification services involving recovery coachers and other intensive family-focused services. It provides $15 million for HHS projects to replicate and study the projects. Again, if further developed and proven, it could serve as a program that could be funded under the Family First Act.
Finally, S 2923 builds on the first bill except it provides $20 million in FY 2019 for funding projects to develop family-focused treatment facilities. Eligible programs include various applicants including the state and tribal governments.
The bills are likely to be moved on in the next few weeks with several Senate Committees acting (along with the earlier efforts of the Senate HELP Committee) and these are likely to be taken together as the House acts on the dozens of bills they have been working on.