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Our voice in Topeka: readers respond

70th District Representative

Thank you to the folks who have responded to the questions I asked last week. I now know that more than 90 percent of those who responded so far believe they would rather pay an extra cent of sales tax than cut more dollars from Medicaid for nursing homes, mental health centers, the disabled, or from schools.

Seventy-five percent of those who responded to the issue of beer sales told me they believe that opening up strong beer sales to convenience stores would harm the local economy and be more difficult for law enforcement to monitor — most of you believe it would lead to more undetected sales to minors. One respondent said for the reason of convenience, it would be OK. I appreciate all your responses; you have helped me get a handle on more aspects of the issues than simply the questions I raised in the last column.

If you haven’t let me know your thoughts, there’s still time. We haven’t voted on any of these issues yet.

I also have facts and figures about the effects of the Medicaid cuts in Kansas. If folks have no ability to pay, Medicaid steps in to assist with medical needs, including doctor and hospital visits, nursing home costs, and treatment and supervision through mental health centers. Prairie View Mental Health Center has provided services in Marion, Harvey, and McPherson counties for years, and the Medicaid cut jeopardizes its ability to provide the services its staff believes are essential for our residents, and it has had to lay off workers who work with our citizens.

The East Central Kansas Community Health Center, serving Chase and Lyon counties (and other counties), has an even more critical problem. It has received its funding through the state general budget since the time Kansas closed most of its hospitals for the mentally ill. The goal was to help the least and the lost through community programs rather than summarily hospitalize the mentally ill. The centers are also designed to provide counseling and treatment for everything from drug and alcohol abuse to marriage and family therapy.

Funding for community mental health centers was trimmed in the initial appropriations bill last spring, and it was trimmed again by the Governor’s across-the-board cut, and again as part of the Medicaid cut. The center can help those with insurance, but it has had to stop regularly monitoring most of its adult patients, and now provides them assistance only in crisis cases.

Those emergencies are likely to end up in a hospital — much more expensive than the cost of monitoring would have been, causing a greater strain on our budget.

Nursing homes in the 70th District have the following Medicaid cuts to live with (rounded numbers): Salem Home, Hillsboro, $146,000; Parkside Homes, Hillsboro, $143,000; St. Luke Living Center, Marion, $76,000; Legacy Park, Peabody, $144,000; Westview Manor, Peabody, $151,000; Golden Living Center, Cottonwood Falls, $144,000; and Bethesda Home, Goessel, $188,000.

The questions that beg asking are: How will any one of these facilities survive even one year with these types of losses? Where will our neighbors work if any one of them closes? Where will our family members, who reside there, go to live?

By the way, the 1 percent sales tax proposed by the Governor will only keep this cut from being deeper; it will not restore this Medicaid funding. And I haven’t even mentioned the shortfalls to our area hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers; I don’t have that information.

I just know it’s harmful to our system and jeopardizes the ultimate recovery from this recession.

You may e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion 66861 or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th St, Topeka 66612; or call me at (620) 382-2133 or (785) 296-7699.

Last modified Jan. 27, 2010

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