2021 Kansas Legislative Priorities

Top Priorities in Child Welfare & Mental Health

Kansas children and teensAs a state legislator, you have the power to meaningfully affect the lives of Kansas’ children and families. We’ve prepared this short guide to share with you some current topics and trends within child welfare, foster care and mental health.

KVC Health Systems is a private, nonprofit organization that employs over 1,000 Kansans who provide in-home family support, foster care, adoption, behavioral healthcare and children’s psychiatric hospital and residential treatment.

KVC is an excellent partner to the State of Kansas due to its nationally known expertise in serving youth with the most complex needs, its broad continuum of care with statewide coverage, and its track record of saving the state millions of dollars annually while also fundraising for capital projects to serve Kansas children and families. No other organization has been trusted to provide foster care case management continually for 25 years or has children’s psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers serving the entire state.

We ask your support to:

1. Provide adequate and stable funding for child welfare and mental health.

Over the last decade, devastating cuts have harmed both systems and the children and families they serve. While child welfare funding has stabilized, KVC asks for your support to increase the Medicaid rates paid to mental health and substance use treatment providers. There is a lack of timely, high-quality, consistent mental health services for both children and adults. This is due in large part to the insufficient rates paid through KanCare to community mental health centers, private practice providers and in-home providers. Children and adults need to be able to access the right providers in their local areas with the right openings. Unaddressed mental health needs often escalate to youth behavior challenges, family crises and foster care.

2. Expand foster care prevention and other family strengthening programs.

How to safely prevent foster care

See how to safely prevent the need for foster care.

In recent years, the number of Kansas children in foster care has hit record highs. It should not be this way. While foster care is an important intervention for children who are not safe at home, as many as 50% of U.S. children in foster care could have been spared the trauma of family separation if their family had access to support services before their crisis. Please support these programs to strengthen families and safely prevent the need for foster care:

  • Concrete and social supports like food security (SNAP), employment assistance, financial assistance (TANF), housing security and transportation.
  • Primary health access including Medicaid expansion, greater mental health access and substance use treatment. Many state and independent analyses have found that Medicaid expansion produces net savings for state budgets since it allows the states to spend less related to mental health, drug overdoses, incarceration and uncompensated care.
  • Education including early childhood, K-12, Parents as Teachers, and research-backed parenting education KVC teaches like Generation Parent Management Training – Oregon Model (GenPMTO) and the Strengthening Families Program (SFP).
  • Child welfare prevention including family preservation services (up to 15x less costly than foster care), and Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) funded programs.

3. Strengthen the psychiatric safety net for Kansas children.

For over a decade, the state of Kansas has relied on KVC Hospitals to be the safety net for children with the most complex behavioral and psychiatric needs. These are children who feel suicidal, homicidal or have other severe challenges. This program, currently known as High Acuity Psychiatric Hospitalization for Youth (HAPHY) but changing to State Institution Alternative (SIA), is a safety net, no reject/no eject program and KVC Hospitals serves the majority of children in need of this critical service through its 102 hospital beds in Kansas City and Wichita.

This critical service is in jeopardy due to a dramatic payment shift. Under the new Diagnosis-Related Group (DRG) payment model that the managed care organizations are shifting to, KVC Hospitals projects $2.6 million in revenue loss annually. These unsustainable losses may force KVC to reduce its children’s psychiatric hospital beds throughout Kansas which would be devastating for the State and children in crisis. KVC is working directly with the managed care organizations to resolve this by requesting that they pay 160% of the DRG base rates, but legislative support may soon be needed on behalf of children in state custody.

4. Provide funding for the widely anticipated, post-pandemic surge in demand for social services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have postponed accessing care of all kinds – physical, dental, mental, etc. Reports of child abuse and neglect have declined dramatically which may be due to less visibility of vulnerable children. When more Kansans are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, we anticipate an increased demand for services ranging from community-based treatment to acute psychiatric hospitalization. Ensure Kansans are able to get the help they need right away.

5. Support expanded use of telehealth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that virtual services can often be just as effective and more accessible than in-person services. Kansas has so many rural and frontier areas that it’s critical private insurers and Medicaid allow behavioral health services by video.

6. Support student loan forgiveness for social workers.

It is difficult for the people who serve Kansas’ most vulnerable children and families to access and rely on federal student loan forgiveness programs. By offering a state program, the State would help fill hundreds of hard-to-fill positions, providing stability and higher quality services for children and families and creating stronger, healthier communities. This may also attract new graduates to return to or come to Kansas to live and work.

We shared updates with legislators monthly and feature legislators who are champions for children and families. See KVC’s past legislative updates here.

About KVC Health Systems

Jason Hooper

Jason Hooper, MSW

Fifty years ago, a group of Kansas City, Kansas volunteers who cared deeply about children founded a small private, nonprofit organization. That organization has grown to become KVC Health Systems, employing over 1,500 professionals in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky and West Virginia. Our primary services are in-home family support, foster care, adoption, behavioral healthcare, substance use treatment and children’s psychiatric hospitals. We also provide training and consultation to agencies around the world. Jason Hooper is the President and CEO of KVC Health Systems.

In Kansas, we have two nonprofit organizations with different areas of expertise:

KVC Kansas

Linda Bass KVC Kansas

Linda Bass, PhD, LCMFT

KVC Kansas is a lead nonprofit agency with the Kansas Department for Children and Families, serving over 30,000 Kansas children and adults each year. We strengthen families, prevent child abuse and neglect, and help both children and adults achieve mental health wellness. KVC Kansas employs 445 professionals based at 10 locations across the state. Services include in-home family support, foster care case management, foster family recruitment and support, and outpatient behavioral healthcare. Linda Bass, PhD is President of KVC Kansas.


KVC Hospitals

Bobby Eklofe President KVC Hospitals Children's Psychiatric Treatment Kansas Missouri

Bobby Eklofe, MHSA

KVC Hospitals provides innovative, compassionate psychiatric treatment to children ages 6 to 18 in Kansas and Missouri. Each year, we help thousands of youth struggling with depression, anxiety, childhood trauma, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges by offering inpatient and residential treatment. We operate children’s psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers in Kansas City, Wichita and Hays, Kansas. KVC Hospitals is also associated closely with its sister organization, KVC Niles, a youth behavioral health treatment center in Kansas City, Missouri. Bobby Eklofe is President of KVC Hospitals.

If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to talk with you. Please contact Jenny Kutz who leads our Communications Team at (913) 322-4900 or jkutz@kvc.org