By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV/AP) -
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing a $10 million initiative to boost mental health services to targeted populations.
The initiative would direct funding to what Brownback called the most at-risk and challenging mental health patients to meet their specific treatment requirements. The program will not target residents who are receiving services through Medicaid.
The Republican governor announced the proposal Thursday in KCK, with Sean Sullivan, secretary of the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Brownback also announced the creation of a task force to evaluate the state's current mental health system and recommend improvements.
Brownback said the initiative is a refocusing of existing funds. He said the recent tragic mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school underscores the need to provide mental health services to those who need it most.
He said the nation has failed to make enough improvements in the area of mental health "at getting at these shocking cases" since the 1991 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
"What we are improving here is an area we know we can improve upon," Brownback said. "It isn't a full answer. But it is an area that we can work together on."
The state will establish up to seven mental health hubs in conjunction with existing community mental health centers like the one in KCK.
"I think we have a fine mental health system in Kansas," said Peter Zevenberg, president of Wyandot Inc. "At the same time, we have some areas that can be improved on. Some of that is more focused money."
He said 60 percent of the 12,000 served at Wyandot Inc. are uninsured and the state's effort will help. He thanked Brownback for focusing on this area.
"I'm pleased the governor is focusing on mental health issues," he said. "It's been a while since we've had a governor in Kansas that's done that."
Mike Hammond of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers said services for the uninsured have been drastically cut in recent years.
"Fifty percent of resources are gone. It's an important conversation to have," Hammon said.
Kansas spends $433 million on mental health-related services, the governor said.
Brownback said considerable investments are made in mental health services but more can be done. He said ultimately it's most important to focus on getting results in tough cases.
"Let's get a serious discussion and focus rather than hand ringing until we have another (mass shooting)," he said. "It's got to be an integrated approach and an intensive approach."
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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