An advocacy group is wondering whether it's being punished for criticizing the state's approach to caring for the mentally ill.
"I can't say we are being singled out, but that's certainly a question that's on a lot of people's minds," said Rick Cagan, who oversees the National Alliance on Mental Illness Kansas office in Topeka.
Cagan learned last week that a state-awarded grant that accounted for about half the program's budget had been cut by more than two-thirds.
Instead of $96,000, Cagan was told NAMI Kansas would get $30,000, effective July 1.
Four months earlier, the national association had issued a state-by-state analysis that gave Kansas mental health services an F.
Mike Deines, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, insisted the failing grade had nothing to do with the cut in funding.
"The grants were put up for competitive bids and, based on the criteria spelled out in the RFP (request for proposal), NAMI came in third," he said.
Most of the money - $150,000 - was awarded to the Kansas Consumers Advisory Council. Mental Health Association of the Heartland will receive $65,000.
Both groups, Deines said, are dedicated to helping the mentally ill advocate for themselves, while the main focus of NAMI Kansas is helping families cope with mental illness.
"These are federal grants," Deines said. "The emphasis changed to what's called 'consumer empowerment.'"
NAMI Kansas has appealed the decision. Cagan is expected to meet with SRS Secretary Gary Daniels on July 6.
Gerry Lichti, president of the NAMI Kansas board of directors, said he expected the group to survive.
"What we do - families helping families - goes beyond money. That's not going to change," said Lichti, who lives in Wichita and whose 32-year-old son has battled schizophrenia since he was 12 years old.
"And if they want to put more of an emphasis on helping consumers, that's fine. I'm sure these other groups will do a good job," he said. "But what I don't understand is what they expect families to do. We have families all over the state whose sons and daughters can't make it in the community, who have nowhere else to go and who end up back with their families, which is just incredibly stressful."
In Lawrence, NAMI Kansas has offered classes aimed at helping families understand and cope with mental illness.
NAMI Kansas member Alan Miller is to teach a 12-week class in Lawrence in the fall.
"This won't stop us," said Miller, who lives in Baldwin and whose son is mentally ill. "I'll pay for the books myself if I have to. We will proceed."
In the past, NAMI Kansas has covered the cost of the classes.
NAMI's earlier report cited Kansas for not doing enough to ensure insurance parity for the mentally ill, help the mentally ill find out about services and reduce the number of mentally ill people landing in or returning to jail. The report gave the nation a D. Kansas and seven other states earned an F. No state received an A.