Colorado violating Medicaid mandate by not providing mental health services to children, lawsuit alleges

Colorado is violating a Medicaid Act mandate by not providing certain mental health services to eligible children at home or in their community, which in some cases has led to teenagers experiencing “unnecessary institutionalization,” a federal lawsuit filed Friday alleges.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado against Kim Bimestefer, the head of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, on behalf of three unnamed teenagers and their families, including one with a history of suicide attempts and self-harm who has been in a metro Denver emergency room for two months.

“Colorado has been ignoring their duty to provide mental health services to the children of Colorado for too long,” attorney Robert H. Farley Jr. said in a statement. “We hope this lawsuit will force the state to find a solution for providing care to all of Colorado’s children and youth who need it.”

The suit is also seeking class-action status on the behalf of people under the age of 21 who qualify for Medicaid and have been diagnosed with mental health or behavioral disorders and who have been recommended to receive Intensive Home and Community-based services.

The plaintiffs in the suit include a 16-year-old girl who has been in an emergency room since July 1 because the state has been unable to find a long-term residential program in the state to help her get treatment. Another is a 13-year-old boy who has been hospitalized since March 9, according to the news release.

The third is a 13-year-old girl who is at home, but needs servers to help with her behavioral disorders. The teenager has been in a psychiatric hospital three times since March 22.

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