Four companies have submitted proposals to take over private management and coordination of behavioral health-care services for more than 150,000 Louisiana children and adults.

The company selected will become the “State Management Organization” seeing to the care needs of about 2,500 children and youth at risk of jail or other institutional placement because of serious mental health issues, addictive disorders or both.

In addition, the SMO will oversee the needs of some 50,000 children and youth and 100,000 adults with behavioral health issues.

Seeking the state business are:

• Value Options Louisiana, part of a Norfolk, Va., company. It began providing mental health and substance abuse benefits for the state Office of Group Benefits in July.

• Cenpatico of Louisiana Inc., part of an Austin, Texas, company.

• Perform Care Behavioral Health Solutions, an AmeriHealth Company with headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa.

• Merit Health Insurance Company, an affiliate of Magellan Health Service Inc. in Wilmington, Del.

The state budget appropriates $167.5 million for behavioral health programs for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The amount includes $12 million for transition and training related to the changeover from public to private management.

The initiative is “a critical part of this administration’s health-care transformation agenda,” state health chief Bruce Greenstein said in a news release.

The structure of the program is similar to one the state is using to shift the health-care needs of some 800,000 Medicaid recipients to private insurance companies or other entities.

The companies enter into contracts with physicians, hospitals and other providers that would form “coordinated care networks” to manage the health-care needs of the poor.

In the case of the SMO, it will be responsible for developing networks of qualified behavioral health providers to offer a full array of services to those with mental and addictive disorder problems.

DHH anticipates announcing its selection for the contract award on Sept. 5, according to an agency news release.

The successful proposer is expected to begin operations March 1.