National Center for Youth Law


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Special Master Appointed in California Katie A Case

a0209567cfRick Saletta has been appointed to serve as Special Master in Katie A. v. Bonta, a class action lawsuit filed in 2003 that aims to reduce the use of costly hospitals and group homes by improving access to intensive, community-based mental health services for foster children with unmet mental health needs.

Saletta was appointed by Federal Judge A. Howard Matz in March. The appointment follows a ruling by Judge Matz last September directing the plaintiffs and state defendants, California Departments of Mental Health and Social Services, to determine how “wraparound” services can be covered under Medi-Cal and properly billed – thereby ensuring that mental health care providers will be reimbursed. Wraparound refers to intensive, community-based, individualized services and supports. These services are provided through teams that link children and families with providers in child welfare, health, mental health, and education.

In September, Judge Matz determined that “there is a reasonable basis to find that the parties can reach agreement on many issues.”1  Because of the complexity of this case, the time and effort needed to resolve the issues at hand, and limitations on the Court’s time, Judge Matz has determined that it is necessary to appoint a Special Master.

Saletta serves as special master in the related Emily Q v. Bonta case, which established an entitlement under Medi-Cal to therapeutic behavioral services for abused and neglected children in California.

As Special Master, Saletta will work to facilitate agreement between the parties on several key issues, including:

  • Which activities under the nine components of wraparound can properly be reimbursed by the Medi-Cal program (including technical questions about billing, coverage, provider qualifications, and reimbursement rates),
  • How these activities/services should be coordinated with existing wrapround programs in the state;
  • Which class members should be eligible to receive all nine components of wraparound;
  • What data accurately measures the services provided to class members and the outcomes associated with these services; and
  • What are the fiscal implications of providing all nine components of wraparound to class members given the state’s current budgetary situation and what are the potentials for cost-savings by providing wraparound instead of placing children in out-of-home care.

Saletta will have five months to determine whether the parties can reach agreement on these issues and will have an additional four months to produce a final written agreement or to make recommendations to the Court. He will begin his duties as Katie A. Special Master by April 15, 2009 and will serve in this position for one year.

1 Order on Plaintiffs’ Renewed Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, filed Sept. 22, 2008.