A substantial increase in Cabinet rates for health and family services has given a boost to state child care agencies that run quality residential treatment programs, including Sunrise Children’s Services.
Knowing the need was dire, Cabinet implemented the reimbursement increases in January instead of waiting until July for the next budget cycle. The move, said Children’s Alliance President Michelle Sanborn, may well have averted the closure of some agencies.
“It was necessary to keep many programs operational,” she said. “Some of them wouldn’t have arrived until July.”
Sunrise Children’s Services was one of the beneficiaries of the rate increase and Chairman Dale Suttles said he was grateful for the consideration of Cabinet and Governor Andy Beshear’s administration.
“This comes at a time when all agencies, like Sunrise, have suffered and can use these funds to do what they do,” Suttles said. “It’s huge for us. Certainly any amount helps, but it was more substantial, more in line with actual ongoing costs.
The increase is in those with quality residential treatment programs (QRTPs) that care for children 24/7, Suttles said. Agencies with this certification receive an increased daily rate per child, per day. Daily costs were accumulating rapidly, he said, with inflation nearing 8%.
Sanborn said while she appreciates the cabinet and governor’s office for delivering the rate hike, and in particular for initiating it in January, much more is needed due to manpower. artwork that has been so damaged by COVID-19.
“It’s not sustainable knowing that they have to increase staff salaries to keep up with the competitive market,” she said. “We are advocating with the Senate and the House to allocate $11.2 million for residential programs so they can provide a $4 overall salary increase to residential staff.”
Suttles said the work done by Sanborn and the Children’s Alliance to advocate for the increased reimbursement was incredible.
“Michelle is a wonderful person and she has done an amazing job for all the organizations. They were a strong voice, along with other individual lobbies, that made this possible. There is still a huge need for money for behavioral health because the cost of therapists is rising and they are in high demand.
Funding for these residential programs, like Sunrise, is crucial, Suttles said.
“There were a lot of different organizations that were lobbying and doing advocacy work to get these rate increases,” he said. “We were seeing organizations on the brink of bankruptcy, literally. Some closed because they couldn’t keep up.
“If you don’t have a place where children can go for treatment, it can cause a real problem in the Commonwealth. It was an investment – the right investment – an investment for the kids. It is for, as they say, the smallest children, children who have experienced trauma.
Sunrise Children’s Services and the Cabinet agreed to a new contract in July after a 22-month negotiation process that saw some difficult times. The contract was at risk of not being renewed after months of disagreement over the language included in the annual contract.
“For everything that’s happened, and to have this kind of turnaround in a short period of time, there’s a (God’s) plan,” Suttles said. “When you stand up for what is right, you will be blessed. It’s another blessing. To have been on the verge of closing down to now have this blessing of having a few dollars to continue doing ministry, certainly gives us hope right now.
Sunrise Children’s Services is an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention that provides foster care, residential, and therapeutic services to children and families in crisis. According to Sunrise, they have been around since 1869, in partnership with the state for 50 years.
“I was pleased to learn that the state will begin to reimburse Sunrise and other hospitality agencies, at a rate that helps cover the expenses of the services they provide,” said Dr. Todd Gray, executive director and treasurer of KBC. “Sunrise Children’s Services is a gift to the State of Kentucky and Kentucky Baptists are continually grateful for their ministry to abused and neglected children.”