Louisiana Lives in the Past

The Louisiana Legislature is once again considering an increase to Louisiana’s Foster Care Board Rate. At a few dimes over $15 per day, the allowance for daily living costs has not increased in more than a decade. Each year, Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is required by state law to ask the Legislature to increase the Foster Care Board Rate. Each year Louisiana’s Legislature ignores the request.

Louisiana’s published rate for Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) services, the most intensive residential treatment available for children in our State, was conjured in 2011. The rate was intentionally set lower than the projected cost of care. It included a funding trick that took back from caregivers half of the difference between Louisiana’s PRTF per diem rate and a provider’s actual cost during their first year of operation.

Louisiana’s decade-old PRTF rate was established arbitrarily by averaging four other states’ rates before Louisiana’s staffing ratio had been determined by LDH Health Standards. At the time, LDH Administration said, “Nonprofits will have to bring more to the table.” LDH has not increased Louisiana’s PRTF rate in ten years.

Louisiana is currently working on setting the initial per diem rate for the new Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) services that DCFS will seek to contract for with group homes to begin later this year. For guidance on a maximum QRTP rate, DCFS looks at Louisiana’s PRTF rate, a ten-year-old rate that underfunded care costs in 2011.

Louisiana’s ten-year-old, intentionally contrived PRTF rate continues to influence the quality of Louisiana’s behavioral health and child welfare services for our state’s children with the greatest needs. Today, the average QRTP rate in other states is more than the average PRTF rate in Louisiana. (Remember, PRTF is a significantly more intensive level of care than QRTP.)

Today, Louisiana’s support of the individuals and organizations who care for children in greatest need and in our State’s custody is ten years old. When it comes to child well-being, Louisiana lives in the past. The unfortunate result is that Louisiana misses opportunities in the present to improve our children’s lives and the condition of our State in the future.

Rick Wheat
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, Inc.

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