Legislation, order aim to save Medicaid to Schools funding
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire is taking steps to salvage federal money for schools that provide mental health counseling, speech therapy and other services to students, Gov. Chris Sununu and other state officials said Wednesday.
The Medicaid to Schools program allows schools to be reimbursed by the federal government for services provided to Medicaid-eligible students. While it once applied only to special education students, the state expanded the program in 2017, and it now covers thousands of students from virtually every district.
The program is in jeopardy, however, because under new federal guidance issued in July, those providing the services must be licensed by a medical board, not just credentialed by the state Department of Education. To address that issue, Sununu signed an executive order Wednesday to temporarily speed up the licensing process, and bipartisan legislation is being drafted to create a permanent change.
“This is not just a legislative solution, it’s not just a solution through rules, it’s not just a solution at the federal level,” Sununu said. “It’s really just making sure the boards are part of the process, and making sure all the stakeholders have been part of the process.”
The Department of Health and Human Services also has been working with community mental health centers and other providers to determine how they might help schools. Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, said that in his city, part of the problem was getting medical providers to officially order the services.
“It wasn’t that the service couldn’t be provided in the school,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, a Democrat running for governor, called the order a publicity stunt.
Ït barely puts a band-aid on the self-inflicted damage caused by the Sununu administration and does nothing to address the root cause of the problem — the governor’s ill-advised, fiscally irresponsible rulemaking that is costing New Hampshire students, schools and property taxpayers millions of dollars,” he said in a written statement.