Health
5:14 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Brownback Calls For Preserving, Strengthening Mental Health Safety Net

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback wants to continue funding mental health services at the state's current level.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (r), Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer (middle) and Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts (l) discuss strengthening the mental health safety net system at Wyandotte Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Credit Elana Gordon / KCUR

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Speaking at a community mental health center in Kansas City, Kan. this afternoon, Brownback said leaders across the country have wrestled with how to best respond to tragedies like in Connecticut and Colorado.  He says strengthening the mental health safety net system is one place where the state can actually make a difference. 

“What I’ve decided to focus on here and what we’re pursuing as a state is an area we know we can improve upon and we know we can move forward with,” said Brownback. “It isn’t a complete full answer to all the questions, but it is an area that we can work together in a region that everybody agrees that we’ve got need.”

State funding for community-based mental health services, particularly for people without insurance or a means to pay, has been on the decline in recent years. Brownback, joined by the lieutenant governor, his secretary of corrections and secretary of aging and disability services, said he wants to preserve that funding in the coming fiscal year and specifically direct it towards effective crisis intervention services.

That portion of state funds amounts to about $10 million.

Brownback called for creating a regional system to better respond to people who are most at risk, but he and other officials are still working out the details.

“This does stabilize our funding in the system and does allow for some redirected focus on what’s the most important, what we can do effectively and efficiently with the resources we have,” said Mike Hammond, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers in Kansas. “We must do what we can to make community based mental health services affordable and accessible to all Kansans. And if we fail to do so, the impact of mental illness will be devastating to individuals, to our communities and will cost the state more money in the long run. So I think this is an important step.” 

Pete Zevenbergen, director of Wyandotte Center, also thought the governor's plan was encouraging but has some reservations.

“I think that this is a very worthy effort to focus dollars on some of the greatest need, and I’m pleased with that” said Zevenbergen. “The concern I have is will it take money away from something else, and more than likely, it will.”

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