Archive for Friday, January 11, 2013

Mental health advocates applaud Brownback initiative, want more details

January 11, 2013


— Mental health advocates on Friday welcomed Gov. Sam Brownback's attention to mental health needs, but said his proposal to shift $10 million in funds must ensure that other services aren't left wanting.

"There are a lot of details to be worked out," said David Johnson, chief executive officer of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

"There will be the challenge of how this money gets used, coupled with the challenge of how to make sure we are not dropping the ball someplace else," Johnson said.

On Thursday, Brownback announced an initiative that he said was aimed at providing $10 million to help treat the most at-risk and challenging populations.

“While many Kansans and their families currently live under the dark cloud of mental illness, my hope is that this new initiative will be the start of a brighter day," Brownback said.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence applauded Brownback for directing attention to mental health services.

But Davis added he was concerned "whether we're simply robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Brownback's proposal would establish a regional system of services for those who need intensive mental health care.

He said he would also appoint a task force to evaluate the state's current mental health system and make recommendations.

Brownback said the task force would include experts in mental health, medicine and criminal justice.

State grants to the 27 community mental health centers, which provide care for 123,000 Kansans per year and are required to serve all patients regardless of their ability to pay, have been slashed in recent years.

"I think we have some catching up to do," Johnson said. "But even being able to have the conversation and elevate the subject is an improvement."

Brownback, like officials in many states, has acknowledged that his interest in mental health services increased after last month's elementary school shooting in Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead at the hands of a gunman who reportedly had mental health problems.

"It took 20 little angels to get people's attention," Johnson said. "Now that people are paying attention to mental health needs, I'm convinced that what this $10 million will go for is good things."


Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

These programs have been cut 50% already. Sam the shams proposal will not increase funding for mental health services.

Mike1949 5 years, 4 months ago

Brownback knows a lot about mental health first hand, lol

Louise Ehmke 5 years, 4 months ago

So Mr. Brownback has restored the $10 M he cut to mental health services from the last budget go round . That takes the mental health service back to maybe breaking even. It is tragic that 26 had to die to get the Gov. to restore what he cut. It is deplorable that he thinks this is such a victory. It is truly disgusting because of the true cost which made the gov change his mind. Nothing based on need in Kansas --no his decision was made for him by angels from Connecticut. Why would the governor ever believe Kansans who actually work in the profession . Go ahead mental health supporters--praise the gov. for restoring his cuts. I find it appalling .

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 4 months ago

Except that, based on what I've been reading, he isn't planning on "restoring" $10 million but, rather, "shifting" funds. I'll look forward to reading his budget on Tuesday so as to see what he really plans on doing.

But please don't get mad at mental health supporters for at least being glad that Brownback is talking about mental health in terms other than cutting another $10 million from it.

Frankly, though, I think that setting up 5-7 "centers" just means more bureaucratic nonsense. I fully expect to hear him start talking about more privatization. But we'll see.

FlintHawk 5 years, 4 months ago

Just a few questions: The article states that this is a "shift" of funds. From where is the $10 million being shifted? How much will this task force (if you can't do, study) cost? Why does a new "regional system of services" have to be "established"? Wouldn't it be less costly to use existing delivery systems? How much state money has been cut from mental health services since Gov. Brownback took office?

Actually, $10 million doesn't sound like much spread across the needs of the state, especially with new administrative (task force, regional system) costs being incurred. Sorry, folks, I'll have to be convinced that any substantive good will come of this. Great pr, though.

Dan Eyler 5 years, 4 months ago

Pick your poison. There isn't enough money to go around. The money needs to go to keep seriously mental dangerous people off the streets. Serious mental illness has no cure. A week in a psych ward is useless. Granted it is a cooling off period and may keep someone from killing themselves or someone else but typically these individuals are back at it in short order. Those who have experienced this understand. Unlike other health issues where you get better, most seriously mental patients don't. Take the funding issue up with the three judges who want 450 million more spent on schools.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Kansas used to have a fairly effective system in place for the chronically mentally ill. Persons involuntarily committed would sometimes spend months hospitalized and would not be released until the state mental health professionals felt that person was stable enough to return to the community. With the closure of the state hospitals, I understand that many patients are administered meds and released after a few days with a lick and a promise, and with no real program in place to ensure they follow through with an cogent outpatient program.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 4 months ago

This is very true. The money saved from closing the state hospitals was supposed to be returned to the community mental health agencies to serve these individuals, but obviously and sadly that didn't happen.

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

You make a good argument, but are you seeing some of the underlying reasons things aren't as you wish they were?

Remember what long term psychological care was 100 years ago. It was brutal, but chaining people down is cheap. Fast forward 70 years and we are more sophisticated and compassionate, but the cost is astronomical. Valium was a buck a bottle. Mama had her little helper. Whatever SNRI they want her to take these days is a $100/month and don't worry about the side effects.

More importantly, I have real problems with putting people into mental hospitals if they have not committed a violent act. It's too much like prison and lacks fair due process. We don't revoke the constitutional rights of the ill or defective in our society.

If a judge orders it or they check themselves in, I hope it helps,

costello 5 years, 4 months ago

People can and do recover from serious mental illness.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, but recovery from severe and persistent mental illness most certainly IS possible. And it happens all the time!

Does that mean someone is "cured"? No. But does it mean that they have learned to control their symptoms, rather than vice versa...and can lead full and productive lives? You bet your butt it means that!!!

So please stop posting misinformation that only causes problems and stress for people working on recovery. And encourages people to not support mental health matter how effective it is in the treatment of serious mental illness...because you'happen to be ignorant.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

does Sam think $10 million is going to just materialize?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 4 months ago

Thank you costello. I am leery about forcing people into hospitals and keeping them there until someone decides to let them out. Is this any different than prison? How do the doctors decide who gets out and when?

costello 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree, frankie. This is a complicated issue. I've spent a lot of time thinking about it and researching it, because I have a close family diagnosed with a chronic serious mental illness. It scares me that people seem to believe there's some clear way of dividing the sick from the well and that the sick are always sick and will never get better.

Most mental illness is episodic. And people do completely recover or recover to a significant degree. Some people manage to cope with their symptoms - with or without outside support and/or medication.

Mental illness is also as much to do with the person's environment as their biology. Things like poverty and immigrant status are correlated to mental illness. Here's a fascinating interview with a researcher who found that symptoms of depression eased in participants in a program to help people in poverty start their own businesses:

Kansas also has the dubious honor of confining a woman to a mental hospital for 12 years because her behavior seemed eccentric and no one spoke her language:

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

There are specific legal standards, and the patient has due process rights, including a court hearing before involuntary commitment, after the initial in-patient evaluation, and periodically after that.

Given the scarcity of hospital beds, I really doubt the facilities are interested in keeping folks who don't need to be there.

Jean Robart 5 years, 4 months ago

I have been a mental health consumer for over 20 years, both in Kansas and elsewhere. The state of mental health care in Lawrence/Douglas county is why i see people in other cities in Kansas.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

Beware Sam Brownback is behind this rhetoric = may not be as good as he wants it to sound.

Where is the ten million and is it accessible is the question?

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