HANNIBAL, Mo. -- A MO HealthNet policy change in April is allowing behavioral health services to be provided on school properties this academic year, and as a result, several local school districts are offering an on-campus therapist, many for the first time.
Mark Twain Behavioral Health CEO Michael Cantrell said the policy change has prompted the company to hire more licensed master's-level clinicians to meet the growing need for school-based therapy.
"In the spring, MO HealthNet passed a rule allowing therapists to be housed in schools and provide therapy services," Cantrell said. "It wouldn't cost the school anything. All the school needed to do is provide a space for the therapist."
Previously, behavioral health providers interested in partnering with schools to address student behavioral needs were unable to bill MO HealthNet fee-for-service or managed care insurance plans for services provided on school grounds. Services would need to be covered by another funding source. The new policy makes it so schools are now a place of service where community providers can be reimbursed for behavioral health services offered there.
"This is a huge win for everyone," Cantrell said.
Canton R-5 School District Superintendent Jesse Uhlmeyer said one of Mark Twain Behavioral Health's therapists will begin in the School District soon and be on-site three days a week.
"This is something we had been talking about over the summer," Uhlmeyer said. "Mark Twain Behavioral Health has a relationship with some of our students, and students and their families would have to make the 45-minute trip to Hannibal for appointments. This new program will meet unmet needs and save families time and travel by having their children be seen at the school. In education we have a lot of discussion about mental health, so this is a great benefit to students."
Locally, Mark Twain Behavioral Health also will be staffing therapists in the Palmyra R-1, Marion County R-II and Clark County R-1 school districts. Cantrell said the company is talking with other school districts about providing a therapist, as well.
"You can't put a price tag on this. This is a win-win for the School District and students," Marion County R-II Superintendent Tony DeGrave said. "This mainstreams a lot of things."
In Palmyra, the district had for several years two social workers who worked during the school day, but at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, they both left their positions. Superintendent Kirt Malone said the district had been advertising for social workers when Mark Twain Behavioral Health called and offered assistance.
The therapist working with Palmyra has already met school staff and will begin Monday.
"Mental health needs are growing for school-age children, and we're seeing more students who need support," Malone said. "Providing that support to students is important to us. We're excited about this."