(via KARK) — A plan is in the works that could change mental healthcare for more than 20,000 Arkansans. The governor and state lawmakers are looking for savings in a program spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

During a Monday morning press conference, Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke about a possible compromise to settle a legislative fight that’s been looming for more than a year.

“It is an option that [DHS] Director [Cindy] Gillespie is looking at and discussing that with legislators,” he said.

The state currently spends more than $500 million every year on mental health services for low-income Arkansas. They range from in-school therapy for kids with behavioral problems to inpatient treatment for severely mentally ill adults.

After reports detailed Arkansas spending much more than other states for certain treatments, the governor and some lawmakers pushed for reforms — including hiring an outside managed care company to control costs.

“Managed care is not for Arkansas, ” said Robin Raveendran, executive director of the Arkansas Alliance for Health Improvement, who was part of the group of providers who were joined by other lawmakers to push back against managed care.  

The alliance was successful in killing the managed care plan for the time being. But, new restrictions were put in place to limit treatments where spending was high.

“The way the state has approached reducing cost has created a huge number of questions,” said Mike Grundy, CEO of Living Hope.

What’s being talked about now is framed as a “hybrid” plan where providers and outside managers combine to form regulatory entities with the aim of saving money. Providers say they’re listening but skeptical, and some lawmakers who worry the hybrid plan will not produce the cost savings they are seeking.  

It’s likely to be one of the key battles of the coming legislative session in January.