Protect mental health funding

Robbin Cole

By A Contributor

May is National Mental Health Month. Pawnee Mental Health Services Pawnee celebrated its 55th Anniversary last November, and Kansas celebrated its 20th anniversary of mental health reform. Mental health reform deinstitutionalized individuals with mental illness by moving them out of state psychiatric hospitals and back into their communities for treatment.

Mental health reform presented the opportunity for the state to save money by providing mental health treatment at the less expensive community mental health level rather than at the more expensive institutional level.

Since fiscal year 2008, Kansas has reduced its mental health reform funding by 65 percent —  $20 million. Pawnee has lost $1.2 million from its annual $2.6 million mental health reform funding budget over the same time period. These cuts represent a departure from the fiscal policies that brought about mental health reform.

National statistics show that one in four adults and one in five children experience the symptoms of mental illness in any given year and that two-thirds do not receive the treatment they need. A recent study by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City shows that one in every 10 adults in Kansas has a serious mental illness and that about 40 percent of these adults are untreated. The annual cost burden of untreated serious mental illness to Kansas is estimated at $1.17 billion. For more information see the website

The Kansas Legislature is in the midst of articulating its fiscal policies for FY13. The first major budget item affecting community mental health is the restoration of $4.75 million for the Family Centered System of Care (FCSC) program. The governor’s budget proposal calls for the elimination of FCSC funding, which provides critical mental health services for over 6,300 children with serious emotional disturbances (and their families) annually. Pawnee will lose $300,000 for six full-time staff and program costs if this budget proposal is approved by the Legislature.

The governor’s budget proposal for FY13 also calls for the elimination of 14 state psychiatric hospital beds at Rainbow Mental Health Facility from its original operating capacity of 50. Rainbow provides acute inpatient psychiatric services to individuals, most of whom are admitted on an involuntary basis because they do not recognize their immediate danger to themselves or to others. State psychiatric hospitals are at or over capacity a majority of the time, so this restored capacity is critical. The Legislature is considering the allocation of $1.8 million for required renovations and staff for 50 beds.

The third major budget item affecting community mental health is the restoration of $1.8 million for pre-admission (non-Medicaid) screens for psychiatric hospitalizations. The Kan-sas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) eliminated funding in FY12 for community mental health centers to provide these screens, which determine whether hospitalization is necessary or whether acutely ill individuals can be diverted to the community for mental health treatment. Almost 6,000 of these screens are performed each year. This screening function is required of the community mental health centers by state statute, license and contract. Pawnee will lose $120,000 for two full-time therapists if the Legislature does not add this support.   

Please contact your state representative and senator and urge them to vote for fiscal policies that support long-term economic recovery, including the full restoration of $4.75 million in funding to the Family Centered System of Care program, $1.8 million in funding to Rainbow Mental Health Facility and $1.8 million in funding for non-Medicaid screens. 

Robbin Cole is executive director of Pawnee Mental Health Services, 2001 Claflin Road.

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