Decades of research and experience have led to a consensus among mental health practitioners throughout the nation that intensive home- and community-based mental health services are much more effective and less expensive than institutionalizing children and youth who have ongoing mental health needs or who experience a psychiatric crisis. Children and youth with mental illnesses or conditions who are left untreated or undertreated have an increased risk of chronic physical conditions and a shorter life expectancy than those who do not have a mental health condition. Children with untreated or undertreated mental health conditions are also at risk of struggling with self-esteem issues, having strained family and peer relationships, languishing in school, and becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. Accordingly, for Louisiana’s children and youth with mental health conditions, access to mental health services is necessary for them to lead functioning and productive lives.
The SPLC led a statewide, multi-year investigation into the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) to determine if it is providing or ensuring the provision of necessary mental health services to Medicaid-eligible youth. The investigation revealed that the state has failed to provide a coordinated behavioral health system of intensive home- and community-based services to 47,500 Louisiana Medicaid-eligible children throughout the state who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or conditions, even though it is required by federal law. As a result, the SPLC and its partners – the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) and Disability Rights Louisiana – filed a federal class action lawsuit against the state.
In November 2023, the district court granted class certification of All Medicaid-eligible youth under the age of 21 in the State of Louisiana who have a mental health or behavioral disorder, and for whom a licensed practitioner of the healing arts recommends Intensive Care Coordination, Crisis Services, and Intensive Behavioral Services to correct or ameliorate their disorders.
The plaintiffs are six Louisiana-Medicaid child beneficiaries who live in different parishes throughout the state. They require intensive home- and community-based mental health services but are not receiving them, resulting in dire consequences for them and their families.
The lawsuit states that Louisiana’s repeated failure to meet its obligation to provide Medicaid-mandated intensive home- and community-based mental health services to the plaintiffs and the tens of thousands of similarly situated children and youth represented by the plaintiffs, has led the children to deteriorate in their homes and communities, to unnecessarily become at risk of cycling in and out of traumatic and restrictive psychiatric facilities, and sometimes to become inappropriately and tragically involved in the juvenile justice system.