Profit Strategy: Psychiatric Facilities Prioritize Out-of-State Kids

by | Apr 11, 2022 | Health

South Carolina children who need immediate, around-the-clock psychiatric care risk being stranded for days — even weeks — waiting for help, only to be sent hundreds of miles away from home for treatment.

When no psychiatric residential treatment beds are open in South Carolina, some children must travel across the Southeast to facilities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, or Kentucky — anywhere a bed might be available.

The problem in South Carolina isn’t a shortage of psychiatric residential treatment beds, state agency leaders say, but that so many of the state’s 518 licensed beds for children are filled by patients from other states. At last count, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services, about half the children assigned to a psychiatric residential treatment bed in South Carolina weren’t South Carolinians.

The reason comes down to the bottom line of the facilities, which are driven by states’ reimbursement rates, since Medicaid often covers such patients’ care. South Carolina’s rate has been about $330 a day, one of the lowest for these services in the country, said Deborah McKelvey, executive director of Windwood Family Services in rural Charleston County. North Carolina’s Medicaid rate is closer …

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