Appropriations Committee hears legislative mental health report

In the latest sign of the importance of mental health in Kansas, the House Appropriations Committee this morning heard the report of the Legislative Mental Health Task Force. The appropriations committee is spending the early days of the 2018 session hearing reports as it prepares to discuss state agency budgets and how to fund them. 

In June 2017, the Kansas Legislature passed a budget that included a proviso directing the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to establish an 11-member task force to review the mental health system in Kansas. The task force was instructed to assess the state’s current mental health system and make recommendations for improvements to the Legislature.  

The group met eight times between September and December 2017 to discuss issues and develop recommendations. Its youth and student-based recommendations include: 

  • Increasing federal funding for mental health services by adopting one or more Medicaid expansion models and supporting expansion of and participation in the federal Excellence in Mental Health Act; 
  • Develop and fund regional community crisis locations; deliver youth crisis and prevention services in settings like homes, school and primary care offices; provide comprehensive housing options; and establish a 24-hour mental health hotline; 
  • Add more than 300 additional hospital beds or expand alternatives that would reduce the number of new beds needed and eliminate the waiting list process of the Osawatomie State Hospital; 
  • Create statewide therapeutic foster care and home-based therapy options; expand community-based options; Increase access to early childhood mental health services by including language in state Medicaid behavioral health plans to explicitly cover early childhood mental health screening, assessment, and treatment; ensure children and caregivers are screened and assessed at regular intervals in early childhood programs; work with partners to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and sources of toxic stress; and take steps to ensure that children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance are enrolled in a health home to provide access to activities that help coordinate their care. 

Amy Campbell of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, who serves on the task force, said the state mental health system needs more flexibility to serve students and families “where they are” rather than only in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office visit structure. The report also recommends increasing access to early childhood mental health services by explicitly covering childhood mental health screenings in state Medicaid programs and work to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and sources of toxic stress.  

Campbell told legislators she’s pleased with the attention they’re paying to mental health issues. “I think we’re heading in a positive direction.”  

Representatives Kathy Wolf-Moore and Larry Campbell asked Campbell to offer the committee additional information on some priorities and solutions to the issued identified in the report.  

“We need help,” Rep. Campbell noted. 

Meanwhile, a separate Kansas School Mental Health Advisory Council has been studying how to provide a comprehensive mental health services system for students in the state’s K-12 public schools. Studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of children and youth have an identified need for mental health services but only one-third of these children receive services. Of those receiving mental health services, 70 percent will receive them at their school. 

And in his 2018 State of the State address, Gov. Sam Brownback called for the state to increase the number of school counselors and s

Share this post