Some good coming from safe-haven flap

Friday, May 1, 2009

Nebraska's poorly designed safe-haven law, which resulted in dozens of teenage children being dropped off at hospitals last year will result in some good if a package of bills advanced Thursday are signed into law.

The fiasco forced the Legislature into a special session to create a 30-day limit on the law, designed to prevent babies from being abandoned in unsafe conditions, but the long-term fix won't approach the nearly $150 million some predicted.

Instead, Nebraska will spend about $16 million over the next two years to make more services available to families who need them, including granting health insurance to 5,000 more children.

The bills increase a Medicaid waiver that could bring $3.7 million more in federal money for mental-health services, provide more counseling, therapy and other services for families after they've adopted foster kids, establish a residency program with more behavioral health professionals, create a statewide hotline and a "navigator" program to connect families with services, and channel more services into behavioral-health regions that provide services to troubled families.

It's unfortunate that the state's reputation had to be damaged by the safe-haven debacle, but if Nebraska finds a way to effectively deal with the problems it exposed, it will have been worth it.

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