PIERRE, SD (KELO) – Rule changes recently made by the State Board of Education Standards will result in less travel reimbursement paid to direct service providers and possibly more use of teletherapy in the Birth to 3 program of South Dakota that helps youth who have developmental delays or disabilities.
South Dakota Office of Early Childhood Services Administrator Sarah Carter told the state board that general funds are used to cover travel to and from families from direct service providers who provide Medicaid-supported therapy assistance. physical, occupational therapy and speech language pathology.
The new Medicaid rates and a 6% increase for the new fiscal year that began July 1 from the Noem administration and the Legislature would have increased general fund spending on the Birth to 3 program by about $375,000 to $400,000, according to Carter.
Paying 80% of ongoing Medicaid reimbursement for the most common talking rate for non-Medicaid special instruction and family training services further increased the estimated impact by $47,000, Carter said.
Carter’s suggestion was to pay ride-hailing providers $1 per mile, similar to the rate attorneys are paid by the state Unified Judicial System. For fiscal year 2023, that would save Birth on 3 about $319,862, she said, and Birth on 3 could absorb the $129,000 net increase in other ways, such as using teletherapy more often.
Brenda Tidball-Zeltinger, a deputy secretary at the state Department of Human Services, spoke in favor of the changes. So did executive director Joe Hauge of Black Hills Special Services Cooperative.
Testifying against the travel changes were Holly Nordstrom, a speech pathologist from Rapid City, and Kris Detert, a speech language provider and contractor from Sioux Falls. They said it would make providers less interested in working for Birth to 3. Detert also said the teletherapy sessions were not in the child’s best interest.