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Task force offers ideas on mental health care

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Tuesday, April 15, 2014, at 4:15 p.m.

A task force appointed by the governor released its recommendations for improving mental health care in Kansas on Tuesday.

The 35-page report by the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force emphasizes the need to improve access to mental health treatment early on and for the state to support an outcome-based approach to treatment.

The task force makes several recommendations aimed at helping younger Kansans receive mental health treatment. It suggests the state offer financial support “to effective preschool and early childhood behavioral health care programs based on outcomes” and also “explore the feasibility of offering all school children access to school counseling, mental health counseling, and school nursing services.”

The report calls for the state to ensure that anyone suffering from a serious mental illness receive treatment regardless of ability to pay.

And it recommends the state consider changing policy so that Medicaid services are suspended rather than terminated when someone enters a correctional facility.

“This would allow for better transition planning. The task force believes it would reduce recidivism rates,” the report said.

Gov. Sam Brownback touted the work being done by the task force during a speech before the Kansas Mental Health Coalition last month.

Amy Campbell, the organization’s lobbyist, said she was pleased overall with the report but would have to see which items the governor and Legislature take action on.

Brownback’s office said Tuesday that he would review the report and determine how to proceed, with a focus on improvements that can be made immediately without changing laws, given that the legislative session is nearly over. A spokeswoman said the governor’s office expects to work with the Department for Aging and Disability Services to create an action plan by May.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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