Kentucky families struggle to care for violent, mentally ill children, and say their plight has been made worse by managed-care firms

Kentucky families struggle to care for violent, mentally ill children, and say their plight has been made worse by managed-care companies that fragment mental-health care and make it harder to find appropriate, stable treatment, which ultimately places the larger public at risk, Laura Ungar reports for The Courier-Journal.

Ungar writes that the lives of these Kentucky families resemble in part the one that lead to a devastating outcome in Newtown, Conn., where 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who had poor mental health and was under his mother’s care, went on a shooting rampage in an elementary school and killed 20 students and six staff members.

To represent the Kentucky families fighting, this battle, Ungar tells the story of the Davies family, who battle to keep themselves safe from the violent rage of their 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, while struggling to find the help she needs. Lucy has threatened to kill her 16-year-old sister, Katie, and herself, she’s tried to throw Katie and her father Dan down the basement stairs, and she’s been abusive to her mother.

Lucy suffers from a long list of disorders: neurological problems from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cognitive difficulties, Ungar reports. “Since Lucy was adopted at age 9, she’s received fragmented treatment in more than six facilities and doctors’ offices, none of which have been able to stop her violent outbursts,” Ungar writes. Now, her Medicaid managed-care insurer, Coventry Cares, won’t cover her treatment in an Illinois facility called NeuroRestorative, which Ungar says offers her the best chance at improvement.

“The care tracking is just so fragmented, and we have managed-care companies that determine from afar what care people can get. They go from provider to provider. It’s a tragedy,” said Louise Howell, president of Buckhorn Children and Family Services, where Lucy was treated briefly before becoming too violent for the staff. “This child is a perfect example of someone in need of a strong therapeutic community,” Howell said. “And there’s so many of them.”

Before going to Buckhorn, Lucy was at Rivendell Behavioral Health Services in Bowling Green, where she received brief treatment after threatening to kill her sister. From Buckhorn she got an emergency transfer to Our Lady of Peace in Louisville, which could handle her high level of violence. She was released when she moved from the Medicaid plan Kentucky Spirit, which plans to break its contract with the state, to Coventry Cares, with which Our Lady of Peace had severed ties.

Lucy’s mother told Ungar that every switch of caregiver and facility increases the trauma to her daughter, who desperately needs stable care. Lucy’s parents say she would have such stability at NeuroRestorative, where her fetal alcohol syndrome could be addressed on a long-term basis. But two doctors working for Coventry, who have never examined Lucy, told her parents that Conventry “won’t cover the placement because there’s no evidence that inpatient care for brain trauma is medically necessary,” Ungar reports.

Her eyes full of tears, Cynthia Davies told Ungar, “You cannot look into my daughter’s eyes and tell me she doesn’t deserve care. She’s a human being.” (Read more)

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