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Mental health program passes

Salina Journal - 4/9/2018

Mental health program passes

TOPEKA - Kansas legislators have approved a pilot program to team up schools and community mental health centers to treat some of the state's most at-risk children.

The measure would set aside $10 million to treat and track two preselected groups of children in six school districts across the state.

The availability of mental health treatment across the county has come under scrutiny in the aftermath of mass school shootings, most recently the February attack in Parkland, Fla.

The Associated Press

Republican Rep. Barbara Landwehr, of Wichita, who sponsored the proposal, says mental health resources are lacking, and the results of the project will show how to address the problem.

The House approved the plan as part of a larger education funding bill aimed at satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate to boost spending on public schools. Legislators kept the mental health initiative intact in the final version of the education funding bill, which passed early Sunday and went to Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Richard Cagan, executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness of Kansas, said the $10 million is inadequate.

"For that narrow program it may be a lot of money, but in terms of the broader needs of mental health, no. No," Cagan said.

Two groups of children would be involved in the project proposed by the House. The first is children in state custody, designated as children in need of care, who often have been shuffled from home to home and school to school. The second is children who haven't been frequently relocated, but who require above normal behavioral treatment.

All the students would receive the same treatment, therapy and counseling at mental health clinics in their communities. A database would track their progress and provide measurable results, Landwehr said.

State spending on mental health overall dropped dramatically in 2009 and 2010, following the Great Recession and hasn't fully recovered. Advocates say more money is needed.


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