Kansas Community Mental Health Centers Push Lawmakers for Answers

As of recently, the leaders of 25 community mental health centers in Kansas are getting ready to push a set of proposals that will address the increasing gaps in the state’s behavioral healthcare system.

On top of restoring the funding for mental health care that was cut during the Great Recession, the facility leaders want Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers to increase the outreach of regional crisis intervention facilities in the state.

As of now, the Rainbow Services Inc., or RSI, center in Kansas City and one operated by Comcare in Wichita are relieving most of the pressure on the community mental healthcare system by taking care of those who are mentally in crisis and might otherwise end up in state hospitals, local emergency rooms or county jails.

“In just 2015, the RSI, a group funded by a $3.5 million grant from the Department for Aging and Disability Services, saved Kansas tax payers $4 million in state hospital costs and another $2 million in emergency room costs,” said Randy Callstrom, president and CEO of Wyandot Inc.

Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, told news crews that they are looking for additional crisis centers that will help fill the treatment gap in the community treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals.

“This is an opportunity to create a newer and potentially stronger treatment model,” Kessler said.

Kessler is scheduled to outline the CMHC proposals in front of the legislative committee that supervises KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

“The initiatives are urgently needed to address a variety of funding and structural problems — many related to KanCare ­— that have combined to create ‘a crisis’ in the mental health system,” said Bill Persinger, CEO of Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka.

“We have nowhere to turn, it’s scary,” Persinger said Wednesday as he pleaded for members of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition to get behind the proposals.

To fit the increasing need for counselors, the proposal would like to double the amount of psychiatric students at the University of Kansas and offer those students breaks on their tuition if they agree to practice at a state hospital for two years or community mental health center for three.

If passed, the proposals plan to provide more than 100,000 low-income adults the proper mental health counseling that they require.

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