Ohio Medicaid program to expand access to behavioral health services for children

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Gov. Mike DeWine announced a program called OhioRise through the Ohio Department of Medicaid Monday. The nearly $1 billion dollar program would connect families with much-needed behavioral health services.

“We spent his entire childhood providing a loving, nurturing home for him, but once he hit puberty, the behavioral issues became worse,” parent and OhioRISE advocate Mark Butler said.

When Butler’s private insurance or Medicaid wouldn’t cover his son’s residential care for autism, he was told their only option was to give up custody so his son could get treatment.

“That phone call I had to make was the hardest thing I had to do in my whole life,” Butler said.

After talking to parents and hearing stories like these, the Ohio Department of Medicaid began an overhaul of their managed care system, which has been in place for about 10 years.

“We heard loud and clear from families that it wasn’t working, the way it was working, it wasn’t getting the job done, so that’s what led us in this direction of a different approach,” Ohio Dept. of Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran said.

Whether it’s a developmental disability, mental health or behavioral health, program will coordinate services and connect them with families in their homes and communities.

“These children and their families are often left trying to navigate various parts of the system on their own and would really benefit from intensive coordination of care, and bringing new resources like intensive services to them,” Ohio Dept. of Medicaid Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives Marisa Weisel said.

Parent and OhioRISE advocate Jerry Freewalt almost had to give up custody for his daughter when she was hospitalized for major depression and found out their insurance didn’t cover her treatment.

He said, while the program wasn’t available for his family at the time, it will make a difference for families in the future.

“OhioRISE is the transformational approach to really help numerous families across Ohio, possibly up to 60,000 families,” Freewalt said.

He said OhioRISE will make it easier on parents during the hardest time of their lives.

“I think if that’s what happens with OhioRISE, that will be a great blessing for Ohio,” Freewalt said.

After the state’s budget is approved, the program would begin in January 2022.

For the time being, the state does have separate funding available, and has helped around 500 families so far.

Families in need of assistance now can contact their county Family and Children First Council, or email general questions to medicaid@medicaid.ohio.gov.

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