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2023 Kansas Legislative Priorities
Top Priorities in Child Welfare & Mental Health
As 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 family of private, nonprofit organizations that employ over 1,000 Kansans who provide in-home family support, foster care, adoption, mental healthcare, and children’s residential and inpatient psychiatric 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, mental health & safety net services.
While child welfare and mental health funding has stabilized in the last few years after significant cuts, 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.
While foster care is an important intervention for children who are not safe at home, as many as 50% of 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), childcare assistance, 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 Camber Children’s Mental Health, formerly known as KVC Hospitals, to be the safety net for children with the most complex behavioral and psychiatric needs. These are children who are struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, the impacts of trauma, or other severe behavioral health challenges. This program, known as State Institution Alternative (SIA), is a safety net service and Camber serves the majority of children in need of this critical service through its 102 hospital beds in Kansas City and Wichita. It will also serve children through this program with new hospital beds in Hays beginning in 2023.
This critical service is being impacted by a dramatic payment shift under the new Diagnosis-Related Group (DRG) model developed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). This model requires a dramatic shift by managed care organizations (MCOs) based on state Medicaid requirements. This payment methodology is more suited for medical hospitals, not psychiatric facilities and it creates more risk in the financial sustainability of psychiatric treatment programs. KVC Hospitals is working with MCOs to decrease risk by negotiating a DRG rate that is better suited to provide behavioral health services to children. But this will cause a risk to sustaining services. KVC Hospitals is requesting that free-standing psychiatric hospitals be exempt from the DRG payment system.
4. Strengthen our state’s child welfare and mental health workforce.
We ask your support for competitive pay for child welfare and mental health care workers. This includes both ongoing competitive salaries to improve hiring and retention as well as hazard pay for pandemic period/SPARK funds. In addition, we ask your support for the creation of a state program for 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. A state program 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.
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 is critical private insurers and Medicaid allow behavioral health services by video.
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
Over 50 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 1,600 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 inpatient children’s psychiatric treatment. 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 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, adoption, a children’s residential treatment program, and outpatient behavioral healthcare. Linda Bass, PhD is President of KVC Kansas.
Camber Children’s Mental Health
Camber Children’s Mental Health 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. Bobby Eklofe is President of Camber Children’s Mental Health.