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Critical mental health program cut for children on Medicaid

The Idaho Department of Health and welfare selected Optum to take over managing outpatient mental health services for adults and children on Medicaid.

Within the last month, families have been notified some services will be cut under the new management.

PSR stands for psychosocial rehabilitation service. Children with behavioral health problems rely on PSR aids to learn the skills they need to become more independent.

Desmond Saunders is 14 years old, and like many teens, one of his favorite things to do is play video games. Unlike most 14 year olds he has to work extra hard to be social.

Desmond is diagnosed with mild mental retardation, ADHD, a defiance disorder called ODD and as borderline bipolar.

Medicaid covers his PSR and counseling.

“If it wasn’t for that Desmond would be in BHC, or else I would be,” said Misty Saunders.

Desmond has been working with a PSR aid for five hours a week for the past five years. He has learned how to be less defiant, more social and independent.

“Before it was a living nightmare. It really was,” said Saunders.

Program director at Tueller Counseling Services, Eric Hill said Optum Idaho has made it harder for children to get the hours they need .

“It was really tough to get the five hours everyone is used to,” said Hill.

Two weeks ago, the Saunder’s family was told by Desmond’s PSR aid that the state will now only allow him 2 1/2 hours a week.

“Sometimes two and half hours just doesn’t cut it,” said Misty Saunders.

Desmond said he enjoys spending time with his PSR aide.

“We go out to eat and watch movies at the Paramount,” said Desmond Saunders.

He said he’s learned a lot from his PSR aide.

“Every time I get angry I should just talk to myself in my mind saying don’t get angry just calm down,” said Saunders.

His parents are proud of how far he’s come but worry about how far he’ll go with the shortened hours.

“With all the progress he’s made so far, how bad is that going to set him back?” questioned Misty Saunders.

PSR aids do their work with children in the field where the children have the most problems, whether it be working on defiance in the home, or social skills in public.

PSR aides have the ability to advocate for more hours for some children with more severe mental issues.

Optum is a Minnesota-based company that Idaho is paying $13.5 million a month to manage Idaho’s health services.

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