At-Risk Youth Program Draws Federal Complaint

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Two civil rights groups are calling for a federal investigation into a Jindal administration program that they allege is failing to deliver on promised services to keep at-risk youth with mental health problems out of detention centers and hospitals.

         In response, The Advocate’s Marsha Shuler reports the state health chief acknowledged Wednesday that there are "challenges" in getting providers to meet the specialized needs of the youth and their families, but said the administration remains committed to the program.

         Gov. Bobby Jindal launched the Coordinated System of Care amid much fanfare in early 2012 as a way to help children and youth up to age 21 stay out of institutions. The program is supposed to provide short-term respite care, crisis stabilization as well as family and youth support services that allow those at risk to remain in their homes and communities.

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         The program has been operating in five regions of the state, including the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas, with the potential for helping 1,200 children and youth. CMS recently approved expansion of the program statewide, which would bring capacity to 2,400.

         "It just really hasn't lived up to the promise," Advocacy Center lawyer Nell Hahn said Wednesday. "It looks good on paper and people were really excited about it, but there are such serious gaps in failing to give people services in their homes and communities."

         Hahn said the state Department of Health and Hospitals hasn't developed the provider network necessary to support the program — more than two years since its implementation.

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         State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said the state has struggled to get the providers necessary to deliver the services, which had not been offered in the past.

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