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Arkansas Amends Medicaid Rules to Strengthen Infant Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment

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The Arkansas legislature approved a Behavioral Health Transformation package in 2016 that included changes to Medicaid aimed at improving diagnosis and treatment of very young children with mental health disorders.

The Behavioral Health Transformation package called on providers to use the DC:0-3R Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood (recently revised to DC:0-5TM to diagnose children aged 0-4. Use of this age-appropriate classification system increases the chances that a child will be appropriately diagnosed and referred to evidence-based treatment.

The rule changes also change policy so that for the first time, Arkansas Medicaid will reimburse providers for dyadic therapies, which treat infants and their caregivers in the context of their relationship. The goal of this transformation was to create a mental health and substance abuse program that would better handle the complex issues facing citizens of Arkansas. Providing access to services in clinics and communities to address issues before there is a crisis helps to keep children and adults out of more expensive hospitals and residential treatment centers. Within the system there is a three-tiered service structure: Tier One: Counseling; Tier Two: Rehabilitation; and, Tier Three: Intensive Services. Approval of this package was the result of years of work on the part of the Department of Human Services, mental health and substance abuse treatment clinicians, and families who advocated for change. The package became effective on July 1, 2017.

Reviewed March 2019


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