Ohio child welfare workers grapple with statewide placement crisis for young people with special needs, leading some to be treated out of state .
Kellijo Jeffries, head of employment and family services for Portage County, recently told county commissioners that the “placement crisis” is affecting children not only in Portage County, but across the state. .
“It’s a crisis issue,” she said.
Jeffries said the Ohio Department of Medicaid plans to roll out the Ohio RISE program in January in response to the crisis. RISE stands for Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence.
According to information from the Ohio Department of Medicaid, 140 Ohio children per day receive out-of-state care, a 200% increase since 2016. More than 40% of youth over 15 in the child protection system are in collective care facilities.
Jeffries said the county faces placement challenges every two months, when local youth have incidents in settlements and may need a lifestyle change. In the past nine months, she said, this has happened four times.
When there is such a crisis, she said, a meeting of the local and state provider placement team is called, which assesses needs and sends referrals to “a large list” of placement providers. .
Local providers involved in the process include Portage Job and Family Services, the County Developmental Disorders Board, and the Portage County Mental Health and Recovery Board. State partners include the Ohio Department of Employment and Family, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disorders, the Ohio Department of Education, and the Department of Mental Health and Ohio drug addiction. The child care coordinator, as well as counselors, doctors and hospitals, are also involved, she said.
The team, she said, is assessing the child’s needs, with the goal of finding a provider who has services to meet the needs.
“Lately there hasn’t been any availability of beds, or we’re interacting with waiting lists,” Jeffries said. “We are also exploring out-of-state placements. The Ohio Rise program that is not yet in place may help in the future, but these are crisis placement options that we sometimes face, depending on the unique needs of the children in our care. “
Portage County has 182 foster children, six of whom were just added in recent days, Jeffries said. Eight of these children live in residential settings. May, she said, was the first time in 24 months that the number was single-digit.
In 2019, the county opened its first group home for local teens. The move has enabled the county to house local children when foster homes are not available, saving the cost of using group homes in other parts of the state. Jeffries told commissioners the local group home costs more than $ 100 less per day than state homes the county previously relied on. A team of social workers run the local group home 24 hours a day.
Journalist Diane Smith can be reached at [email protected]