By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
After a short debate and competing motions, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved funding for an expansion of state-funded homes that provide residential psychiatric treatment for adults.
Monday’s debate centered on whether the state should transfer $830,000 in state general funds from mental health services to the Medicaid budget. Doing so would result in Medicaid doubling the funds with federal dollars, which would boost the number of beds the state can provide for adults with profound psychiatric illnesses.
Currently, the state has 60 available beds for such patients, and all are full, said Ross Edmunds, administrator for the Division of Behavioral Health. The state contracts with small home-based care facilities across the state, called Heart Homes. Those businesses provide daily assisted living as well as intensive psychiatric care for residents – a level of care that most assisted living facilities are not equipped to provide.
Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, pointed to the ballooning national debt as a reason Idaho should avoid relying on more federal funds, even if that money would benefit Idahoans in the short term. Citizens will benefit more from fiscal prudence, Herndon said.
But others on the committee expressed concern over a lack of other options for mental health patients who need such intensive care. If there isn’t an available bed for those patients, many of them end up on the streets or hospitalized long-term, Edmunds told the committee.
Ultimately, the committee voted 15-4 to approve the funding. The committee will consider the full Medicaid division budget at a later date.