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A legislative committee has recommended that the child welfare contractor in the Omaha area -- the last one left after privatization of child welfare failed statewide -- continue as a pilot project.

A letter from Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said that at this time the committee recommends the lead agency pilot with Nebraska Families Collaborative continue after April 1.

The committee has requested more information and may provide additional recommendations after reviewing it, she said.

State law required the committee to review the pilot project and recommend to the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Legislature whether it should continue, any changes and any legislation needed.

Dave Newell, president of Nebraska Families Collaborative, said the recommendation acknowledges the pilot is moving in a positive direction. He is grateful, he said, for the committee's thoughtful review. 

"Good things are happening in Omaha. But we still have a lot of work to do," he said.

Both Newell and Children and Family Services Director Thomas Pristow said negotiations are continuing on the case rate payment and performance protocols for the contractor in the next fiscal year.

Newell said the case rate formula used to reimburse the agency for services provided to families and children is flawed. Reimbursement falls about $2 million short, no matter what the agency's expenses are, he said.

Nebraska Families Collaborative has offered three case rate options for HHS to consider and would accept any of the three, Newell said.

Pristow told the Legislature's Appropriations Committee this week that the contract for the eastern service area is on track to end "appropriately" this June 30.

The performance outcomes for Nebraska Families Collaborative have improved, he said, and "we're working it out."

Nebraska Families Collaborative combines five agencies, including Boys Town, Child Saving Institute, Nebraska Family Support Network, Omni Behavioral Health and Heartland Family Service.

The agencies manage the cases of state wards for about 1,400 families in Douglas and Sarpy counties.

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Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com -- You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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