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The state of Kentucky is looking to amend its Medicaid state plan to expand school-based health services for children around the state as early as the 2019-2020 school year.

Working in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has asked the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for permission to amend Kentucky’s Medicaid state plan to make way for the expansion.

School districts that choose to participate would be able to use “federal Medicaid funding to provide students enrolled in Medicaid with increased access to school-based health care,” such as mental health services, health screenings and asthma management, according to a news release from Gov. Matt Bevin.

Currently, the state said, only students enrolled in Medicaid with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) qualify to receive these services.

The amendment was submitted to CMS April 28, and the cabinet and KDE are working collaboratively to communicate program requirements to superintendents and set up operational procedures, according to the release.

The cabinet is acting now partly because of a policy change by CMS and the fact that “the Governor has charged all cabinets with finding solutions that leverage resources to improve access to mental and physical health services for children,” according to an email from CHFS.

“Certainly, with the increased incidence of mental health issues and diagnoses in youth, this and other policy changes, such as SB 1 (the school safety bill), are needed and timely.”

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has communicated with superintendents about the plan to expand school-based health-care services for kids enrolled in Medicaid. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

KDE Commissioner Wayne Lewis and state Medicaid Commissioner Carol Steckel sent letters to all superintendents in the state, stressing that the services that would be provided “address challenges before issues get more serious, require more costly interventions, and potentially put others at risk.”

Terry Brooks of Kentucky Youth Advocates released a statement praising the cabinet for “making the most of the opportunity to leverage federal funds to provide much-needed health services.”

“The importance of preventive health and behavioral health services is undeniable as is the wisdom of placing those services in schools to maximize access,” he said in a statement. “Ensuring children have those services not only positively impacts health, it is a catalyst to better academic achievement and even better school environment.”

Darla Carter
Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.