Mental Health Providers Say Larger Medicaid Reimbursements Are Needed

Proposed Budget Could Help Address Issue


Nonprofit treatment centers in northern Wisconsin say they’re not getting enough money to cover Medicaid patients who need help — an issue that the governor’s proposed budget may help address.

Betsy Byler is the outpatient and youth treatment manager at the nonprofit Human Development Center in Superior. Byler said therapists aren’t fully reimbursed for providing mental health and addiction services to Medicaid patients. She said it’s difficult to hire help and make up for that loss.

“My ultimate fear is that agencies like mine who kind of do everything won’t be able to stay, and I don’t know what that would do to our community,” said Byler.

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Byler said they’re losing an average of $12,000 a year for each clinician. Around 90 to 95 percent of their clients are covered by Medicaid, and they have 45 people on a waiting list.

Byler said it’s difficult to attract workers because they can’t afford to pay as much as Minnesota. Byler said the reimbursement rate is $55 per hour in Wisconsin compared to $98 per hour across the border. Byler said they would need $80 per hour to break even.

Joyce Allen is the prevention treatment and recovery director with the Department of Health Services. Allen said the governor’s budget does expand services that are covered.

“So Medicaid will now pick up — if the budget is approved — residential treatment for substance abuse. It’s a growing issue in our state,” said Allen.

The governor’s budget includes around $8 million to cover inpatient treatment.