We are saddened to learn that Uta Halee Girls Village plans to close most of its services effective December 16. Uta Halee has been a long-time provider of behavioral health services to children in the Omaha area and their closing will impact the lives of the hundreds of children and youth they serve.
For a long time, we have known that it is very difficult for children to access the services that they need. Since even before the Safe Haven crisis, Nebraska has lacked a system of care for children with behavioral health needs. It is especially difficult for low income children to access the right level of care at the right time. The closing of Uta Halee sounds the alarm signaling that policy changes aimed at saving money have a very real effect on children and providers. With more restrictions on access, we can expect to see more children denied the services they need as providers struggle to keep their doors open. With changes to Medicaid and constant shifts in the child welfare system, long-standing providers are under pressure to do more with less.
“Providing quality behavioral health services to the children of our state costs money. These changes in Medicaid regulations and payments reflect a state that is tripping over dollars to save dimes. It is time that we, as a state, determine the needs of our children and work to build a system that meets those needs,” said Voices for Children in Nebraska Board President Keith Allen.
“Just because the state continues to limit the services they will pay for it doesn’t mean that the need goes away. The behavioral health and child welfare systems are so strongly intertwined that changes in one have an effect on the other. Policy makers, including the governor, legislature and DHHS officials, need to recognize the impact that changes have on kids and the providers that serve them. We must work together to find solutions that do not leave our children without access to the care they need when they need it,” added Carolyn Rooker, Executive Director of Voices for Children in Nebraska.
Agencies like Uta Halee serve our most vulnerable children and youth and provide a high level of care while simultaneously receiving payments that do not cover the full cost. They have long supplemented this care with other contributions. We are certain that Uta Halee is not the only agency feeling this stress. With changes to Medicaid and constant shifts in the child welfare system, it is becoming even more challenging for providers to care for children in need.