Medicaid cuts program that helps at-risk youth in Cuyahoga County

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A program that has been helping hundreds of at-risk youth in Cuyahoga County is losing Medicaid funding this summer.

Positive Education Program Connections, or PEP Connections, provides intensive mental health support and services for children who are at risk of being institutionalized.

Families are assigned a case worker who works with a child and their family to identify community programs and supports that can help the child emotionally and mentally.

Tanya Ramey is a Cleveland mom of five whose 12-year-old son Myron has been receiving services for a little over two years.

Myron's mom says he became suicidal after witnessing repeated incidents of domestic violence. A caseworker from PEP Connections stepped in and began to try and identify the root of Myron's rage and impulsiveness. The end result is something that Myron's mom says she never could have imagined.

"He's doing perfect. I couldn't ask for nothing much more greater," said Ramey.

Habeebah Rasheed Grimes is PEP's Chief Clinical Officer. She and her colleagues are worried about the state's decision to cut Medicaid support for the program.

"I'd say we are all losing sleep right now uncertain of what the future of our PEP Connections program will look like, especially what will that service look like to this community, and then, what will happen with these kids," said Grimes.

Advocates for PEP Connections are quick to point out that the cost of helping each child through PEP Connections is $11,000 dollars per child, per year. The estimated cost of institutionalizing a child is about $100,000 dollars a year.

What happens if PEP Connections goes away?

People like Myron will lose many of the services that, in Myron's case, were life-saving.

PEP representatives say that case workers will not visit as often.Certain therapies, like art therapy, will go away.

Myron's mother has this message for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has the power to restore funding for the program.

"What I would want to say is, take a walk in my son's shoes. Take a walk in his shoes and another other child. That's all I can say," said Ramey.

We reached out to the governor for comment.  His office referred us to the Ohio Department of Medicaid that released this statement:

In 2016, Cuyahoga County was notified that we would be moving towards a program where the children served by PEP Connections would continue to receive care coordination and services, but for PEP Connections to provide those services, like every other behavioral health care provider, they would need to pursue partnerships with Managed care plans to be included in a provider network—This new opportunity begins in July 2018." said Ohio Medicaid spokesperson Melissa Ayers.

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