California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) 101

How often have you wished that you could help a client in crisis who really needed the services but just didn’t have the money to pay?

At a time when mental health resources continue to be underfunded and short-staffed, CalVCP funds providers like you and me to do what we already do best – serve our clients! This program also helps us to better serve disenfranchised, undocumented and/or economically disadvantaged clients who qualify, as well as victims of ongoing crimes such as domestic violence.

On a personal note, CalVCP has truly helped me to serve underserved clients and bring more diversity into my private pay practice. Now I can afford to work with clients who cannot pay for my services – it’s a win-win situation.

As you read on, you will learn how you can support a client or a potential new client who has been a victim of a crime.

What is the California Victim Compensation Program?
By law, CalVCP is the payer of last resort for eligible out-of-pocket losses resulting from a qualifying crime. Set up in 1965 to lessen the financial impact of crime on qualifying victims, the California Victim Compensation Program was the first of its kind in the nation. Today, each state and several US territories have their own victim compensation program. The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards reports that compensation programs around the country are serving an ever-increasing number of victims despite a substantial decline in violent crime over the past two decades. With annual payouts close to $500 million, this is a significant resource for the over 200,000 victims served nationwide each year.

Where does the money for this program come from?
The funding comes from a variety of sources including restitution fines and orders, traffic and other offender fines, State penalty assessment and from the Federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). This program is not funded by our tax dollars.

Who qualifies under this program?
CalVCP can help direct victims of crimes that occur in California as well as California residents who become victims while outside the state or even country. Derivative victims, such as caregivers of child victims, or bereaved family members, may also be eligible for some compensation.
If the crime occurred in another state while the client was a resident there, the client will need to contact the Victim Compensation Program in the state where the crime occurred. You may be qualified to serve a client who is eligible under the Victim Compensation program of another state, although the program guidelines, as well as reimbursement rates may vary significantly.

What is a qualifying crime?
To qualify, the crime typically involves physical injury or threat of a physical injury or death. The CalVCP website (http://vcgcb.ca.gov/victims/) lists the following qualifying crimes:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Abuse
  • Assault
  • Sexual Assault
  • Elder Abuse
  • Homicide
  • Robbery
  • Drunk Driving
  • Vehicular Manslaughter
  • Hate Crimes

How can my client participate in this program?
If your client has a police report dated within the past 12 months, which alleges any of the above crimes, she is eligible to apply for this program. For adults, the application must be filed within one year from the date of the incident, and for minors, one year after their 18th birthday.
Under special circumstances, the filing deadline may be extended. To participate in this program, the client must cooperate with CalVCP and law enforcement in prosecuting the perpetrator, and/or pursuing restitution.

How can I verify my client’s eligibility?
Although your client may qualify under the listed criteria, she is not deemed eligible until she has gone through the application process and been issued an ID number. As a provider, you can request a release of information from your client, in order to verify eligibility and session limits with CalVCP.
In my experience, victim advocates are easily accessible over the phone and have a handy callback system in order to avoid long hold times.

What sorts of compensation are offered through CalVCP?
Expenses related to a crime such as medical treatment, mental health services(YES!), funeral expenses, relocation and crime scene cleanup are often covered under this program. Reimbursable benefits may even include a wheelchair, hearing aid, prosthetic device or cosmetic surgery that is needed as a result of the crime.
It is important to note that property damage or loss is not covered through CalVCP.

What are the typical mental health session limits?
For a direct victim, the initial limit is 40 sessions, while caretakers of child victims are often allotted 20 -30 sessions. Child witnesses of domestic violence are usually listed as direct victims in the application and typically allotted 40 sessions.

What’s the rate of reimbursement?
MFTs and LPCCs are currently(2014) reimbursed at $81 per session, while services provided by Interns are reimbursed at $75 per session. A group therapy session is considered to be 120 minutes and MFTs are reimbursed at $32.40 per hour while Interns receive $30 per hour.

Did I read that correctly: Can an MFT Intern provide services to a crime victim?
The good news is that an Intern may provide services, but this must be clearly documented. Also, the Intern may not independently bill for these services. Only the supervising therapist or agency may bill, and the rates of reimbursement are slightly lower as noted above.

Can I conduct therapy over the telephone?
In California, a client may use a maximum of three telephone sessions but only in a crisis situation. In some other states, phone sessions are entirely disallowed.

This sounds easy, but how much paperwork are we talking about?
Since you’re already a pro with consent forms, session notes, and regular documentation, this should be a breeze!
The statute requires CalVCP to verify that the treatment provided is necessary as a direct result of the crime. To document this, CalVCP requires providers to complete a treatment plan prior to the sixth session. The treatment plan form is available online and is fairly self explanatory. CalVCP does not usually require you to submit your treatment plan unless you are filing an additional treatment plan. You may however be contacted by the program for a periodic clinical review.

What’s an Additional Treatment Plan (ATP)?
The letter of eligibility notes the initial mental health session limits your client has qualified for, typically 30 or 40. If you believe that your client needs additional sessions beyond the initial limit, you may file an ATP, accompanied by the original treatment plan. In an ATP review, the treatment focus, circumstances of the crime as well as progress are considered. In order to ensure continuity of care, it is recommended that the ATP be submitted for review when 6 to 8 sessions still remain.

How do I become a provider for CalVCP? How do I get paid?
Any licensed mental health provider can serve a qualified victim under this program. Some Victim Witness Centers maintain referral lists that they give to victims and you can ask to be added to the list.
Becoming a provider is easy. When you see your first client who is eligible through this program, you will need to send in three pieces of documentation:

  1. Your first bill on a CMS 1500 form
  2. Your W-9
  3. A copy of your MFT license.

That’s it. You are now a CalVCP provider AND you are on your way to getting paid! Keep reading for more information about payments.

What if I am a contracted provider with the client’s insurance carrier?
As a reminder, CalVCP is the payer of last resort. So in this case, you would continue to be paid by the insurance carrier at your regularly contracted rate. The only difference would be that CalVCP would send the co-pay amount, to you or the client as the case may be.

I only accept private pay clients. Can I directly bill the client for services?
Yes. Some providers bill their clients for services at their customary rate and issue a monthly superbill. The client can submit the superbill to CalVCP for reimbursement keeping in mind that the standard rates of reimbursement still apply.

I like what I’ve read this far, so what’s the catch?

  • CalVCP is the payer of last resort, so CalVCP can pay only expenses that have not been reimbursed by any other source.
  • Note that by cashing a warrant from CalVCP, you agree to accept their rate as full payment for services and cannot bill the client any more for that service.
  • Here’s another catch to keep in mind: The client must be willing to cooperate with law enforcement and CalVCP in prosecuting the perpetrator, or pursuing restitution. If the client fails to do so, CalVCP may find the victim no longer eligible for services.
  • There is one more catch, but the next question can help reframe it positively!

How can CalVCP help me with my long-term goals?
If you have a hard time setting money aside, CalVCP can help! Payment seems to take anywhere from 3 to 6 or even 8 months, so think of it as your rainy day fund or as one more step towards your savings goals!

How can I help my client through this process?

  • If you know that your client has been a victim of a crime, encourage her to file a police report, or to request a copy of the report that was filed. Help your client advocate for herself, if needed.
  • Prompt your client to contact CalVCP at 800.777.9229, or in person at a local victim witness assistance center. Although applications can be downloaded from the website, I usually encourage my clients to make a face-to-face appointment with a victim advocate. They are trained to support clients through the application process and my clients have reported very positive experiences.

Is there anything else I can do to be prepared?
I find it helpful to keep a few CalVCP applications and brochures on hand to provide to clients or colleagues when needed. These can be downloaded from the website or requested by mail.

Where can I get more information?
Here are the two resources from which information for this article was gathered.

CalVCP is one of the many agencies that can play an active role in our ability to support a client. In our upcoming issue, we would like to hear from you about the agencies you are familiar with. Tell us about your experiences as a mental health professional who collaborates with CPS, psychiatric emergency services, and law enforcement, to name just a few. Share your knowledge, experience, dos and don’ts, cautionary tales and success stories.

**This article was originally published in the SFCAMFT newsletter.**

Bio: Rajani Venkatraman Levis is a Certified EMDR therapist who brings a richly multicultural focus to her work with developmental and historical trauma. As an educator and trainer, her favorite topics include vicarious resilience, domestic violence and group counseling process. Rajani is a writer who speaks five languages and enjoys bringing east and west together, especially in her kitchen. She can be reached at 415.683.1008 or therapy [at] levistherapy [dot] com. Rajani sees clients in private practice in Noe Valley and you can learn more at www.levistherapy.com

 

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