A Medicaid program that serves mentally ill children will remain intact after the Senate Health and Welfare Committee rejects a proposal to eliminate it. The administration proposed cutting the program by April 1 to save the state $2.2 million because of cuts to the Department of Health made in the special session. Lake Charles Senator Ronnie Johns is frustrated lawmakers didn’t use more rainy day dollars to avoid this.

“The real problem is not in this room today, it’s across the hall from this past special session when we could’ve done some things to not even be here today,” Johns said.

In 2016, more than 47,000 children and teens received psychosocial rehabilitation services through the program. Lawmakers heard testimony about the services that would be eliminated, including one that helps suicidal and depressed teens learn coping skills so they can stay in school and out of jails and hospitals. Houma Senator Norbert Chabert says these kinds of programs have to be protected.

“We just had a suicide recently in my district that really, really shook the community, and I can’t see how we benefit from cuts to programs like this,” Chabert said.

LDH must also deal with an $8.1 million budget reduction, and keeping this program means they’ll have to trim a total $10.3 million from other areas. Baton Rouge Senator Regina Barrow was shocked that a program that serves children on the autism spectrum was in jeopardy. She says there must be other ways to cut back on spending without eliminating such a vital service.

“I would suggest that we start looking at how it can be better managed because that program cannot be eliminated either, but it sounds like we’ll be passing the pain from one area to another area, which is not the correct way to govern,” Barrow said.