Amid youth mental health crisis, Kansas lawmakers are heading in the wrong direction


The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Tara D. Wallace is a licensed clinician and trauma therapist in Topeka.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national state of emergency for children’s mental health due to the cumulative effects of COVID-19.

Last month, the Hopeful Futures campaign released its American Report Card on School Mental Health, documenting the mental health issues of children, families and communities across the country. This report assessed policies in the categories of mental health professionals, partnerships, training, funding, well-being, school climate, life skills, and mental health education. .

Kansas ranked 33rd overall for youth mental health, down from 26th in 2021.

Current policies do not support wellness checks or mental health services for students without individualized education plans. They also do not provide adequate staff to increase the professional helping/student ratio. Currently, Kansas schools average about twice the recommended ratio of students to staff.

The shortage of mental health professionals has been on Kansas’s radar for several years. Pre-pandemic efforts to address the shortage included recruiting from other states, telehealth, and implementing policies to make licensing less complicated for behavioral health professionals. Overall, post-COVID demands for mental health services far exceed the availability of mental health professionals.

In light of that fact, it’s business as usual for managed care organizations in Kansas. This was repeated many times in testimony provided to Bob Bethell’s Joint Committee on Home and Community Services and KanCare’s oversight in December 2021.

The consensus was that the problems of the past were solved. Claims were paid within a reasonable time. Accreditation was no longer an issue and the suppliers were happy with the way things were going. If there had been any problems, the room would have been filled with providers, standing only, testifying to their difficulties.

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act guarantees continued coverage to anyone enrolled in Medicaid and a 6.2% increase in the federal match paid. The expectation of continued coverage would reasonably guarantee access to mental health services. Yet some mental health providers waive accreditation with managed care organizations due to the bureaucracy required to obtain and maintain active status, claim denials, extremely low reimbursement rates, and clawbacks of payments.

Kansans cannot afford to lose any more mental health care providers. But mental health care providers cannot afford to meet this challenge alone. The only way not to lose is to not play the game.

Substitute House Bill 2463 was removed from the House calendar without considering the aforementioned issues, locking in current policies and Medicaid reimbursement rates until the end of 2024.

Kansans cannot afford to lose any more mental health care providers. But mental health care providers cannot afford to meet this challenge alone. The only way not to lose is to not play the game.

Those who need mental health services lose out.

In the medical field, there is a phenomenon known as “phantom network”. It describes a collective of individuals identified as providers who no longer provide services or those who provide services on a limited basis to a selected group of individuals.

Mental health providers in Kansas have known about the “Mental Health Shadow Network” for several months but are powerless to stop its growth. Others have become reluctant participants because they are forced to watch managed care organizations recruit their clinicians with the promise of higher pay and a reduced workload.

House Bill 2463 single-handedly stifles the potential growth of mental health organizations and all but guarantees the demise of some private practitioners, many of whom have the flexibility to meet the unique needs identified by the current mental health crisis for appointments. you evening and weekend.

March is social work month. The National Association of Social Workers has identified this year’s theme as “Now is the time for social work”. And it’s. With the youth suicide rate in Kansas above the national average, change needs to happen now.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, racial tensions and many other issues, what we cannot endure is ignored by policymakers who recognize these challenges but refuse to address them. on our behalf. These people are chosen by voters to make sound decisions for the good of all Kansans, not just managed care organizations or people in leadership positions who receive bonuses for meeting quotas.

The promise of monitoring must be just as meaningful to those who receive services as to those who provide them. The substitute for House Bill 2463 offers neither.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.


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