Task Force Update: Helping vulnerable Kentuckians effectively and efficiently

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE Representative Amy Neighbors


As lawmakers look towards the next legislative session, the legislative interim is wrapping up and committees and task forces are finalizing their work. Task forces have proven to be a vital part of crafting legislation in areas that need more specialized attention than traditional committees with broad agendas can offer. An area that requires the attention of several task forces is how we deliver health and human services. These services range from Medicaid benefits, to foster and adoptive care services, to the regulation of child care providers and food assistance.


The Kentucky Health and Human Service Delivery System Task Force was created by legislative leadership to focus on issues pertaining to health and human services delivery, as well as to identify both areas of improvement and potential solutions. I was honored to be appointed to this panel, and hopeful that the work we have begun will continue as we owe it to both those who receive benefits and those who pay for them to ensure the services are delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible. The vast majority of these programs fall under the massive Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which contains scores of agencies, offices, and programs aimed at protecting the health of all Kentuckians and providing services to help individuals meet basic needs like housing and food, particularly for our most vulnerable. As you can imagine, it is a multi-billion expenditure in the budget legislators write, so we have a vested interest in ensuring the state’s resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.


With one of the most significant challenges facing our commonwealth today is how we serve our most vulnerable children. Ranging from the foster care system to Medicaid utilization, a large focus of the task force was how to serve children in the system better, but first required the task force to evaluate what exactly has gone wrong as a whole. Some of the findings included an anticipated decrease in federal funding for childcare programs, verified reports that children in state custody often stay overnight in offices because the program cannot place them, Medicaid expenses rapidly growing as more than a third of the state now receive health insurance benefits through the program, and collaboration between local health departments and the Department for Public Health has increased due to action taken by the legislature.


With findings come suggestions for policy change. The task force recommended that lawmakers reinstate the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee, as well as allow a continuum of the task forces to work through the next legislative interim. Funding recommendations include raising rates for psychiatric residential treatment facilities, court appointed counsel, and supporting high acuity care centers.


The legislature is encouraged to foster a partnership between the Department for Community-Based Services and the CASA program in active counties, as well as explore the potential for employees of the Department for Community-Based Services from doing so due to a conflict of interest.


To establish broader coverage of underserved areas, the task force has also recommended that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services seek federal approval for immediate reallocation of waiver slots when necessary and standardize waitlist management policies across all departments that administer waivers. Waivers provide financial assistance to people who are in long term care situations. By creating more slots, we will be able to assist more families and patients.


As for the logistical issues sustained in high public benefit utilization areas, the task force has also recommended that a pilot program be established in Jefferson and Fayette counties for processing benefit claims.


As always, I can be reached anytime through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Amy.Neighbors@lrc.ky.gov and keep track of interim committee meetings through the Kentucky legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov.


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