Voices for Children testified in support of LB 270, which would require DHHS to apply for a waiver to allow children with behavioral health needs to be served in their homes. Here is our written testimony:
Children and youth struggling with mental and behavioral health needs should be able access the care they need in the least restrictive environment possible. Children and families deserve access to the supports and services that can help them thrive and will allow youth, even those with severe needs, access to key developmental experiences and the tools they need for a successful adulthood. Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 270 which requires the Department of Health and Health and Human Services to apply for a waiver that will allow children with behavioral health needs to be served in their homes.
The Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver presents an opportunity for Nebraska to strengthen and improve the way we serve youth in the mental and behavioral health systems. As identified in the recent cross-systems analysis report, the HCBS waiver offers a wonderful opportunity to serve children and families in new and better ways as Nebraska seeks to reform our child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Specifically, Voices for Children in Nebraska sees the waiver being useful as we move towards a number of goals:
1. Reducing the number of children and youth made wards to access services. In Nebraska, a full 40 percent of children made state wards in 2011 were 14 and above, and over 20 percent of children who came into out-of-home care in 2011, entered due to their own behavioral or mental health needs. In both the child welfare and juvenile justice system, we continue to hear stories about families having no choice but making their child a ward of the state to access treatment and needed services. This should not be the case. A waiver would strengthen efforts to intervene in different ways and preserve families. It would also provide more options for youth served through Probation’s Juvenile Services Delivery Project.
2. Enhance community-based services for youth in the juvenile justice system. A number of bills have been proposed this year and a number of committees continue to meet to search for resources to strengthen the local continuum of care for youth in our juvenile justice systems. Keeping kids close to home is usually best for them, and we should focus on building those services as a state.
LB 270 offers a key opportunity to strengthen reform of our child welfare and juvenile justice systems and ensure that all children get the services and supports they need. We thank this committee and Senator Campbell for their leadership on children’s behavioral health and we urge you to advance this bill. Thank you.