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Wisconsin Improves Delivery of Health Services for Children in Foster Care

Press Release

Location: Madison, WI

Today, Governor Scott Walker announced the Department of Health Services (DHS) received federal approval to create a foster care "Medical Home" program in the southeastern region of the State, to begin this fall. The program is a joint initiative of the DHS and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and will be implemented in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties.

"By providing individualized, trauma-informed care we will improve the lives of individuals in foster care," said Governor Walker. "My wife, Tonette, has been emphasizing the importance and benefits of trauma-informed care and now children in foster care will benefit from these services because of this extensive state agency collaboration. This program is an example of government innovation that resulting in better care for those being served, as well as long-term savings for taxpayers. "

"It is so important for the various systems to take a collaborative approach when addressing the needs of Wisconsin's children and families," said First Lady Tonette Walker. "The approval for this medical home program is another wonderful step in the right direction toward bringing lasting, positive change to our children and families and establishing Wisconsin as a national leader in the Trauma Informed Care movement."

The initiative creates a virtual "medical home" for children in foster care and out-of-home care where a child will receive an individualized treatment plan that addresses their specific trauma-related needs. As a result, these children are expected to have improved physical and mental health, improved resiliency and shorter stays in out-of-home care. These positive health and mental health outcomes for children will also result in long-term savings in Medicaid costs.

"Many children who enter foster care have experienced traumatic events in their young lives and, as a result, often have intensive physical, behavioral, and mental health needs," said Eloise Anderson, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families. "By immediately assessing their needs with a trauma-informed approach, we have another tool to help break the cycle of harm caused by these adverse experiences."

Under the program, some 2,500 children in the six counties will continue to have access to all covered Medicaid services but these will be coordinated to ensure services are appropriate to each child. Each child will have a primary care provider and team that will create a medical care plan focused on the specific needs of the child, including physical and mental health and dental care. A Care Coordinator will communicate with the child protection worker for each child, the child's parent(s) or guardian, and other providers to ensure they receive needed services promptly.

"Many children in out-of-home placements, who receive Medicaid services, need specialty care, but the care they receive is not coordinated among health care providers," said DHS Secretary Dennis G. Smith. "The medical home concept in southeastern Wisconsin will allow these children to get the coordinated, appropriate care they need to achieve long-term stability."

DHS will certify one or more integrated health systems to participate in the new program. To be certified, qualified health care providers must be integrated health systems with demonstrated capacity in trauma-informed care and evidence-based treatment, and include qualified physicians, nurse practitioners, and other support staff and an adequate network of qualified providers for medical, dental, and behavioral health services. To provide continuity of care for each child, they must be able to contract with providers outside their network.

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