A new federal initiative could make it significantly easier for people experiencing a psychiatric emergency — including those with disabilities — to get the care they need.

Under a pilot program announced this week, Medicaid officials said they will provide reimbursement for emergency care at private psychiatric hospitals for adults living in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

Traditionally, the government insurer has not paid for care at psychiatric facilities for beneficiaries ages 21 to 64. Instead, individuals experiencing a psychiatric emergency were directed to general hospital emergency rooms that were often ill-equipped to meet such needs, Medicaid officials said.

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“This new demonstration will help ensure patients receive appropriate, high quality care when they need it most and save states money,” said Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in announcing the program.

The pilot project established under the health care reform law will allot states up to $75 million in matching funds over three years so they can cover treatment at private psychiatric facilities. Federal officials said they will monitor the success of the program to determine if it leads to lower costs or increased quality of care.

States receiving the funds include Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.