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Inpatient Psychiatric Services for Individuals Under Age 21

This benefit referred to as "Psych under 21", is an optional benefit that most states have chosen to provide. Services are provided in psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric units in a hospital, or psychiatric facilities for which states may define accreditation requirements, subject to requirements at 42 CFR 441 Subpart D. Among the requirements for this service are certification of need for inpatient care, and a plan of care for active treatment, developed by an interdisciplinary team.

This benefit is significant as a means for Medicaid to cover the cost of inpatient mental health services. The federal Medicaid program does not reimburse states for the cost of institutions for mental diseases (IMDs) except for young people who receive this service, and individuals age 65 or older served in an IMD. No later than age 22, individuals are transitioned to community services, or non-Medicaid inpatient services.

Many states provide psych under 21 services through psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs). A PRTF provides comprehensive mental health treatment to children and adolescents (youth) who, due to mental illness, substance abuse, or severe emotional disturbance, need treatment that can most effectively be provided in a residential treatment facility. All other ambulatory care resources available in the community must have been identified, and if not accessed, determined to not meet the immediate treatment needs of the youth.

PRTF programs are designed to offer a short term, intense, focused mental health treatment program to promote a successful return of the youth to the community. Specific outcomes of the mental health services include the youth returning to the family or to another less restrictive community living situation as soon as clinically possible and when treatment in a PRTF is no longer medically necessary. The residential treatment facility is expected to work actively with the family, other agencies, and the community to offer strengths-based, culturally competent, medically appropriate treatment designed to meet the individual needs of the youth including those identified with emotional and behavioral issues.