Dawson questions APSB school-based mental health program


   A program to provide mental health services in Avoyelles Parish schools drew fire from another service provider at the Avoyelles School Board’s Executive Committee meeting on Oct. 25.
   The comments by Brenda Dawson, owner of Community Support Services in Bunkie, left several board members and Superintendent Blaine Dauzat scratching their heads as to what she wanted.
   Dawson is the sister of board member Shelia Blackman-Dupas and has run unsuccessfully against Board Member Lizzie Ned twice. Her company is not participating in the program that was  developed earlier this year to provide mental health specialists on campus at all APSD schools.
‘Medicaid fraud’
    She said the program as developed and operated is illegal under Medicaid regulations and actually constitutes Medicaid fraud.
   Dawson said CSS employees have been prohibited from seeing patients at the school and CSS patients have been referred to other mental health service providers for treatment without parental consent.
    She also indicated the board’s action was racially motivated because CSS is a minority-owned business.
    “You can’t spend Medicaid funds to pay someone to sit all day at a school,” Dawson said. She said Medicaid dollars can only be spent to see specific patients who are covered under Medicaid.
Committee Chairman Chris LaCour pointed out that the School Board does not pay the service providers’ staff members anything. He also noted that any issue of “Medicaid fraud” would be between the agencies and the federal government.
    Dawson said she only wants the ability to serve students whose parents have selected CSS to provide their children with mental health services.
   The program currently in place allows those companies who elected to participate to station an employee in the schools to provide immediate intervention in the event of a mental health-related issue with a student. Non-participating companies are not allowed on campus except to see a student they treat on a regular basis.
   Participating companies are not supposed to provide services to other providers’ patients, Assistant Superintendent Thelma Prater said. Dawson said she knows of several instances where that happened.
    Dauzat told Dawson that it sounded like what she was saying is that the parish should return to the way services were provided to students before the on-campus program was implemented.
   Dawson did not clearly state whether Dauzat’s impression was correct or not. She said what she was saying is that “you should not ask a mental health professional to address your behavioral issues in the schools.”
   She said that just because a student acts up in school does not mean they meet the criteria of having a mental health problem.
Program  Amendment
   The issue of the school-based mental health program came up at the committee as a a proposal to clarify the time table for agencies to participate in the program. That became an issue when Brenda Sampson, owner of Exceptional Counseling in Bunkie, noted that her business was omitted from the program even though she was a principal architect of the program.
    Sampson noted she missed a deadline to submit a form indicating her participation due to the illness and death of her brother. 
   The board approved adding her company to the rotation of companies in the schools at its last meeting.
   The “proposal for enrollment procedures” was recommended by the committee and will be presented to the full board at its Nov. 1 meeting.
  It states that “mental/behavioral health providers shall coordinate with other providers to present to the Avoyelles Parish School Board a program to provide mental/behavioral health services” to APSD students at the board’s July meeting. That presentation must include a list of all agencies that will provide services in the first semester of the school year. 
  “Any provider not included in the listing provided/presented to the Avoyelles Parish School Board at the July meeting will not be included as a provider for that semester,” the amendment states.
   An agency not included in the first semester will be able to be added to the list for the second semester by presenting its request at the board’s November meeting. 
   However, “any agencies which do not meet the deadlines set forth shall not be allowed to provide services and shall have to wait until the following period to petition to be included in the program.”  


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