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Eastern, 4C strike agreement for mental health services

Kokomo Tribune - 5/20/2024

May 19—GREENTOWN — Eastern Howard School Corporation is the latest Howard County school to make the switch from Community Howard Regional Health to 4C Health for certain student mental health services.

The Eastern School Board approved an agreement with 4C on Tuesday for the provider to supply the school with mental health skills clinicians, starting next school year. They will work with students on behavioral, coping and regulatory skills.

4C will provide these services free of charge to students who are on Medicaid. Eastern can pay a fee to have every student eligible for the services.

Superintendent Keith Richie said it would be about $3,000 per semester. The price is based on student enrollment.

Richie said they will discuss with 4C about making its services available for all students.

The school identifies students who could benefit from mental health services. Families then sign off on it.

"What I'd like to do is give these guys a try this year," Richie told the board. "They can provide us close to what we were getting."

The agreement comes after Community Howard notified Eastern, along with Taylor and Western, that it was ending a partnership that provided similar services for free. Additionally, Community Howard ended partnerships with those schools for athletic trainer services, as well.

The health care network asked school districts to pay for the services.

Schools have balked at the price, opting to turn elsewhere. In one case, Western was quoted at $474,000 to retain its athletic trainers and mental health staff provided by Community.

Eastern would have had to pay Community $42,000 to keep its two skills clinicians, according to Richie.

A Community Howard spokesperson said earlier this year schools need to absorb those salaries due to rising costs and reimbursement amounts. School officials said they were told legislative changes were also part of the reason.

Administrators from affected Howard County schools have been critical of Community's decision, as they argue that while they do not pay for services, their students can be referred to the health network in case of injury or mental health issues requiring more attention, which in turn is business for the hospital.

They've also been critical because the loss of mental health services came as a surprise, whereas schools knew athletic trainer agreements were ending.

Taylor's school board approved a similar partnership with 4C in March.

"I think it's probably our best option right now," Richie said.

Eastern has yet to pin down an athletic trainer provider for next school year.

Western's school board is expected to vote Tuesday on mental health and athletic trainer agreements.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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