Wayside CEO Eric Masi Fights for Fair Reimbursement Rates
Caring Together is an initiative of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) whose purpose is for the Commonwealth’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Department of Mental Health (DMH) to develop joint service standards, program specifications and management structures in order to create a more rational, effective, and administratively efficient “system” of residential care for youth.
One piece of that initiative is a residential service for youth called Short-Term Acute Rapid Reunification (STARR), which is a rapid assessment and stabilization program for youth, with a goal of returning home. Youth continue to attend their own home school during the day. Individual, family and group therapy is provided.
Wayside, along with our sister providers of STARR services in Massachusetts, is dismayed to learn that the proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Budget calls for a dramatic reduction in reimbursements for STARR services.
On Tuesday, August 9, Wayside President & CEO Eric L. Masi, Ed.D, joined Wayside’s peers in a hearing at UMASS Medical Center in Worcester.
Below are his remarks:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. I am Eric Masi, CEO of Wayside Youth & Family Support Network. We run STARR, Continuum, TAY Continuum, IGH, and Pre-IL programs under the Caring Together Initiative.
I too, like my colleagues, am here today to express my disappointment with the proposed reimbursement rates, but I am also very confused. Confused, because ever since Governor Baker took office in January of 2015, this administration has been unwavering in its support of children and families.
From its excellent leadership appointments to standing by DCF even in the face of state budget problems, the Baker administration has been a welcome relief from past administrations in its strong commitment to children and families. And so this is the first time since Governor Baker has taken office that I have felt disappointed or confused by EOHHS actions.
In November of 2015 and in March of 2016 letters were sent by the three provider advocacy associations to EOHHS giving specific proposals as to how Caring Together programming could be strengthened in general, and STARR programming in particular. But it appears our input in these letters was not utilized at all. I fear that the goal of the rate review process was in fact, not to re-energize the Caring Together programs with appropriate funding and staffing, but to meet the bare legal necessities of the judicial order related to Chapter 257.
With regard to STARR, my agency, Wayside, has 27 beds and averages 26.2 children in those 27 beds every day of the year – a 97% occupancy level. We barely break even financially, despite running such a high occupancy. However, under the current draft rates and purchasing methodology, we will receive $9,000 less revenue next year per bed than this year. This will result in a reduction of $243,000 in revenue for those same 27 beds – and that is before we try to keep up with salaries, and the staffing needed for safety and compliance with new regulations as outlined by the trade associations. Wayside and its Board of Directors cannot absorb such losses, and will have to make decisions about how best to use our campus facilities and the staff we are able to retain.
We appreciate being your partner and feel we have upheld our end of the bargain. In September of last year we were asked to take on 6 new STARR beds, and did so willingly. Before these draft rates were published, we were even considering how to add even more STARR beds to help with the placement crisis, but these rates make such a decision untenable.
I ask you to please take the original input from the associations, along with the input you hear today, and do a comprehensive analysis of these model budgets. My hope is that Caring Together will be re-energized with sufficient staffing levels and salaries, to be able to achieve the high level of excellence of the Governor’s other commitments and initiatives for the children of the Commonwealth.
Eric L. Masi, Ed.D
President & CEO, Wayside Youth & Family Support Network