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Boy stranded at Children’s can move when bills are settled, officials say

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The 10-year-old boy stuck in a psychiatric ward at Children’s National Medical Center for more than a month has been accepted in a Philadelphia residential facility, authorities said Monday, but he can’t go there until it’s determined who will pay for his treatment.

The boy has been in Children’s since Sept. 15. The hospital has been trying to discharge him since Sept. 28, but his parents and Prince George’s County authorities have not come for him. Hospital officials filed a civil suit against his parents and Prince George’s to move him because, they say, the hospital cannot offer the care he needs.

At a Monday hearing, lawyers for Children’s, Prince George’s and the boy’s parents argued — as they did last week — before D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Eugene N. Hamilton about where the child should be placed.

At issue for Hamilton is who bears responsibility for the boy’s long-term care: He is in a D.C. hospital, but he is from Prince George’s County. While the brunt of financial responsibility will be handled by Medicaid, Hamilton said, the Philadelphia facility needs to know who will pay the 10 to 20 percent co-payment.

“D.C. and Maryland are hem-hawing about responsibility of this case when, at the end of the day, it’s not their money,” Hamilton said.

The Washington Post was permitted to cover the hearing on the condition that the boy and his family not be identified. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

The boy was admitted to the hospital after he was suspended from school Aug. 31, then stabbed a relative and threatened suicide, court papers say. A source close to Children’s Hospital said it was the fourth time he had been admitted there. In court records, hospital officials said the boy’s mother did not believe he was healthy enough to return home.

Milton McIver, a lawyer with Prince George’s Department of Social Services, said Monday that it would take about two weeks to determine who will pay for the facility. McIver argued that if the lawsuit had been filed in Maryland, a judge could have ordered Maryland officials to expedite the handling of the case. Hamilton said that because the boy was abandoned in the District, it was a D.C. case.

McIver argued that the boy should be released to his mother until he is placed in the facility. But Rhea Yo, a court-appointed lawyer for the boy’s parents — who are no longer in a relationship — said the boy’s mother did not abandon her son but feared that she could not care for him if he were released to her.

“She’s overwhelmed,” Yo said. “She doesn’t know what to do if she has to keep him herself.”

Attorneys for the hospital also say she is not prepared to care for the boy until his placement is made.

The boy’s mother and father arrived separately and sat behind the attorneys. At times, the mother wiped away tears and shook her head as Yo spoke.

The boy had been living with his mother and stepfather, and his father does not have custody rights. Both parents declined to comment after the hearing.

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