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Governor Kelly Signs Transformative Bill to Strengthen Mental Health System in Kansas

For Immediate Release

April 27, 2021

For more information, contact:
Cara Sloan-Ramos

TOPEKA – Last week, Governor Laura Kelly signed Senate Substitute for House Bill 2208, laying the groundwork for the most significant transformation of the Kansas community mental health system in decades. The bill establishes a new model for providing behavioral health services—the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). The signing of this bill makes Kansas the first state to pass legislation identifying the CCBHC model as a solution to the mental health and substance use crisis.

“Access to mental health services are integral to building stronger communities, especially as we continue to recover from the pandemic,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I’m proud we are the first state to establish this model as another step in the right direction toward addressing the mental health crisis we face.”

In 1990, the Kansas Mental Health Reform Act fundamentally changed the mental health system in Kansas with the goal of transitioning care from institutional services to community-based care in response to the needs at that time. That monumental legislation established Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) as the “safety net” for Kansans with mental health needs, ensuring that behavioral health services are available in all 105 counties, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

HB 2208 again reforms and modernizes the system to meet today’s needs. CMHCs across the state are facing challenges like increased demand for services, substantial reductions inpatient psychiatric hospital resources and workforce shortages.

CCBHCs are specifically designed to address the suicide crisis, overdose deaths, barriers to timely access to addiction and mental health treatment, delayed care, inadequate care for veterans, and overburdened jail and emergency departments; all of which affect the Kansas mental health system. Equally as important, the newly passed legislation provides a sustainable approach for providing the necessary resources to providers.

“CCBHCs provide a high return on investment, both in terms of patient care and cost to the state,” Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Laura Howard said. “The expanded service array allows for vulnerable individuals to receive care in the most appropriate setting in their own communities and fill a gap in the unmet need for care.”

The CCBHC model focuses on whole-person care. Patients will have access not only to mental health services but also to integrated care that emphasizes recovery, wellness, trauma-informed care and physical-behavioral health integration. CCBHCs must meet rigorous quality standards and provide all required services as outlined in the legislation; however, CCBHCs also retain the flexibility to adapt to meet the unique needs of their communities.

States with fully established CCBHC systems are already reporting promising results, including increased access to care as well as decreased hospitalizations and emergency department visits for individuals experiencing mental health crises, together with increased support and partnership with local law enforcement.

Currently, six Kansas CMHCs are in the process of implementing the CCBHC model, and it is anticipated that all 26 licensed CMHCs will transition to CCBHCs over the next three years. Central Kansas Mental Health Center is poised to become one of the first CCBHCs.

“We are thrilled about the passage of this legislation. It will enhance services and improve health outcomes across the five north central counties we serve and is the first step toward stabilizing the sustainability of mental health services, CEO Kathy Mosher said. “We are excited to offer this new model of care, and we will do everything we can to be a CCBHC model of excellence and improve the overall health of Kansans.”

To find your local CMHC, visit http://www.acmhck.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/CommunityMentalHealthCentersofKS-Revised-1-10-18.pdf.