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Brownback says Kansas will spend $10 million for at-risk mentally ill

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, at 6:01 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, at 12:06 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback — prompted in part by December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School — said his administration will spend $10 million to treat Kansas’ most serious cases of mental illness.

At a news conference Thursday in Kansas City, Kan., the Republican said improving treatment for the most at-risk mental health patients will be an immediate step to try to prevent tragedies like that in Newtown, Conn., where 26 students and teachers were murdered, and in Columbine, Colo., where 12 high school students and one teacher died in a shooting rampage.

“We haven’t made much progress since Columbine in getting at these shocking types of cases,” Brownback said. “What we’re picking here is a piece I think we can move forward on.”

Other potential solutions, like limiting access to guns or changing violent cultural images, will be more difficult, he said.

His initiative will steer money to what Brownback called the most at-risk and challenging mental health patients, designed to meet their particular treatment needs. It won’t deal with the mentally ill who are receiving services through Medicaid.

Most of the $10 million will be directed to the state’s 27 community mental health centers, as well as to a series of mental health “hubs” where more intense counseling and case management practices can be pursued.

The grants will be based on performance and results, Brownback said.

“What the governor is saying is, let’s stabilize the system, get a new focus, and then let’s go from there,” said Michael Hammond, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

The program will last for a year.

The proposed expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would provide coverage for thousands of uninsured or underinsured mental health patients, but the governor said he is still thinking about whether to support that proposal.

Brownback said he will also form a task force to examine the state’s mental health system and recommend improvements.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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