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Mental health provider braces for funding cut

Staff writer

As part of his effort to reduce state spending, Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed a reduction of $10.2 million in funding for mental health services in fiscal year 2012.

Prairie View Inc., the licensed community mental health provider for Marion, Harvey, and McPherson counties, stands to lose about $915,000 in state funding if the governor’s proposal is approved, Prairie View President and Chief Executive Officer Jessie Kaye said. That would be in addition to nearly $1.5 million the mental health care provider has lost in the past three years.

“Our staff and organization can no longer absorb losses to absolve the state of its responsibility to care for its most vulnerable and indigent populations,” Kaye said.

State aid helps cover the costs of treatment for patients that cannot pay and in covering the difference between Medicaid reimbursement and actual costs, as well as other programs. Aid also allows Prairie View to assist law enforcement, courts, schools, and hospitals in dealing with individuals with mental health issues, she said.

Mental health services are an indispensable tool for law enforcement, Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning said.

“We deal almost daily with people with mental health issues,” he said.

When police encounter someone with a mental health issue, they need somebody who can determine if that person is a danger to himself or others.

“We’re not psychologists,” Kinning said.

Prairie View treats more than 500 patients that have no insurance coverage, and more than 100 patients in Marion County receive treatment — thanks to funds from the county or state, Kaye said.

Reduced funding for mental health services could have several undesirable consequences, she said, including more unemployment among people whose untreated illnesses impair their ability to work productively, more institutionalization — in state hospitals and jails — of people needing treatment, and increased homelessness.

“If the cuts occur as proposed in the governor’s budget, our ability to provide around-the-clock assistance will be limited,” Kaye said. “Patients in need of treatment may have to wait longer to receive services and would probably receive a lower level of programming than is needed.”

Last modified Feb. 4, 2011

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