Pound foolish

Cutting state funding for community mental health services isn’t a good investment in the state’s future.

January 19, 2011


Kansans understand that the state is facing a difficult budget year, but even in a tough year, some cuts just don’t make sense.

Eliminating more than $15 million in funding to community mental health centers in Kansas is one of those cuts.

The state’s largest mental health fund already had been slashed by 65 percent ($20 million) between 2008 and 2010. Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget “saves” the state $10.2 million by completely eliminating the state aid fund for community mental health centers. The fund is the only one that covers costs for people who cannot afford to pay for services. It also is the only fund that helps community mental health centers cover the costs of crisis care and other services not covered by Medicaid.

In addition, the Brownback budget eliminates $5 million in funding from the state’s tobacco settlement for the Family Centered System of Care, a program that supports children receiving mental health care by coordinating those services with families, courts and other service providers. The funding increases both the efficiency and effectiveness of those services, according to community mental health leaders.

One of those leaders is David Johnson, CEO of the local Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. Johnson said this week that the cuts included in Brownback’s budget would cost Bert Nash about $372,000. That’s a devastating hit for Douglas County that will be multiplied across the state.

The greater hit, however, is the trickle down effect of reduced mental health services. More than half the inmates in the Douglas County Jail receive mental health services. Too often, jail becomes the last resort for people who don’t receive proper treatment for chronic mental illness. Many members of the homeless population in Lawrence and across the state also have mental health issues. A reduction in community mental health funding and services permeates schools, work places, hospitals and a variety of social services agencies.

The inability of people to access the mental health services they need has a profound impact on both the health and safety of the state. The costs of supporting community mental health services pale by comparison with the costs to society of not providing that care: prisons, lost work productivity, family breakdowns, school failures.

The state of Kansas closed mental hospitals in the 1980s and ’90s with the promise that people who were being treated there would receive even better services from community-based agencies. Recent funding cuts, and the proposed additional cuts, for those community centers not only endanger the state’s ability to keep that promise; they eliminate services that could ward off problems that are much more costly to the state.

Legislators must consider the long-term costs of this short-term budget fix.


Paul R Getto 7 years, 2 months ago

This is a long-standing Republican tradition dating all the way back to Reagan's California days. People were told, "You are well now, go home. Even if you aren't, we can't afford to help you." The tradition continues in the health care debate, where the plan seems to be "Die Quickly before we have to carry your case on the insurance company balance sheets."

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Actually, the downturn in treatment for the mentally ill began a long time ago, and had nothing to do with either political party. While I'm sure you're too young to remember, try Googling a little place in NY state named "Willowbrook". The backlash from that started a movement to get everybody out of the institutions and have them all treated by 'community resources', and the 'community resources' have never been able to keep up with the demand.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 2 months ago

We'll see how many Loughners appear in this state during Brownback's term.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

You sound like you'll be disappointed if none show up, gram.

Mark Zwahl 7 years, 2 months ago

And Tom, your true colors show: prejudice, stereotyping, fanatical perspectives that reason could not possibly change because you KNOW you're right. I wish people who know they are right had to register so we could know how safe our neighborhoods are. You scare me.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 2 months ago

I think a typical response from Conservatives regarding the health care crisis is that there is no crisis. It is a liberal conspiracy.

So those people on the corner that look like they are cold and starving are not really there.

Orwell 7 years, 2 months ago

Anything to keep the Kochs' taxes down. Who cares how many are hurt?

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

And again, I extend my invitation to Brownback supporters to weigh in on the fact that he promised to protect education and social service funding, and then immediately starting cutting them instead.

So far, nobody's responded.

Does his lying bother you? If not, why not? Are you in favor of good character in politicians, or do you only demand that of liberal ones? Would you have voted for him if he'd said he wanted to cut that funding instead?

YoungEarth 7 years, 2 months ago

My son, Sam, knows that the mentally ill are just sinners who have not accepted Me as their savior. Once they accept Me, they will be restored to health. Providing help for them is the same as enabling them to live their sinful lifestyles. That is one reason why I hate Lawrence--too many people with misguided ideas on how to help people. The only help they need is to repent and be saved.

BigPrune 7 years, 2 months ago

Why should there be funding when we are all going to get free health insurance in the near future?

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

"Maybe the real problem is how many people in the state think like you."

Maybe the real problem is that you believe the way other people (i.e., the majority of the people that live in this state) is a problem. Search your own soul. You're the one who stands out.

(Although I'm sure, adhering to the typical snotty liberal-elitist dogma, you're convinced that you and the tiny minority of your fellows are the only ones who 'get it'.)

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

brownback moving the KNI kids to community situations without regard to the capabilities of the community groups to accommodate the most intense needs of the remaining clients. They disinvest in mental health programs and wait till the guns fire and suicides reduce the numbers Filling the local jails with the mentally ill instead of , oh why bother, They know what they are doing. They wouldn't do it except the Koch brothers need the tax break. Heaven forbid they don/t give the wealthiest a tax break.

George_Braziller 7 years, 2 months ago

In the early '90s there was a push to close state hospitals and move people into integrated settings in their communities. The cost for a person to live independently with the proper supports is a fraction of what it costs for that same person to live in an institutional setting.

Some of the dollars saved from closing institutions were reallocated to community-based agencies to help cover the cost of the needed supports. Not warm and fuzzy stuff, hard core basic needs like housing, food, attendant care, and counseling that truly do make the difference between life and death. An investment of a few hundred dollars in intervention saves tens of thousands of dollars it takes to get someone out of a crisis situation.

Many agencies are mandated to provide de-institutionalization services to guarantee community placement is successful. Now there is talk about cutting the very funds that were allocated to save money in the first place?

It is "pound foolish" indeed.

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