Weaver questions cost savings of housing kids in DCFS care in hospitals
During a recent Human Services Hearing, Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) questioned where the cost savings is in having kids in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) kept in hospitals far beyond what is medically necessary.
A panel of officials earlier testified to the dire need for more residential placement options for children in DCFS care so that they could be released from the hospital once they were well enough. They also pointed out that this has been an ongoing issue over the years, which needs to be resolved.
“Even though we are sitting here talking about a hospital setting and beyond medical necessity, the backlog is being driven by what could be happening at the back end and the front end,” Weaver said. “The hospital is also the most expensive piece (in the continuum of care). We may or may not come up with more dollars, and I think we have to be realistic about that.”
Heather O’Donnell, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at the social service agency Thresholds, challenged Weaver, saying the state does have the money.
“We do have the money; we have the money when the legislature or the governor wants something and it’s a high priority," she said. “I think we need to make it a priority. Otherwise, we are just going to continue to have these hearings and hear about tragedies."
After Weaver questioned when the last comprehensive and cost-effective review of continuum care was performed, O'Donnell said she believed the program had been comprehensively observed for over a decade.
She admitted, however, that nothing has been detailed in exact dollars as to the cost of early and community-based treatment models versus hospitalization. But, she was able to estimate that early and community-based treatment options cost between $25 and $52 a day.
“A hospitalization costs about $1,000 a day, so it’s crystal clear,” O’Donnell said.