Governor Kelly, Mental Healthcare Workers: Medicaid Expansion would Address Mental Health Crisis

TOPEKA – A year after a report ranked Kansas last in the nation in mental health, Governor Laura Kelly today hosted a roundtable with behavioral health experts and first responders about how Medicaid expansion would improve mental and behavioral health care for Kansans. The event was held at Valeo Behavioral Health Care, a nonprofit that is the designated mental health authority for Shawnee County. 

“When Kansans have health insurance, they’re more likely to get the treatment they need in a timely manner so they can continue being present and supportivemembers of their families and communities,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “If the legislature expanded access to care, it would be doing the right thing for Kansas families, for our workforce, and for public safety. It’s time to expand Medicaid.” 

How Medicaid Expansion would improve mental health: 

  • The Mental Health America report found that 18% of adults with mental illness in Kansas had no insurance, compared with 11% nationwide. Expansion would make 150,000 more Kansans eligible for health insurance through Medicaid.

  • Expansion is associated with improved access to care and medication for people with depression, even in communities experiencing a mental health worker shortage.

  • Research shows expansion increases the likelihood that people will seek treatment in a timely manner and use medications prescribed by their care provider. 

“Medicaid expansion would open the door for uninsured, hard-working Kansans to have access to a wide range of integrated, whole-person health and behavioral health services, resulting in improved health status for individuals and families and a bottom line return on society’s investment,” Bill Persinger, Jr., CEO of Valeo Behavioral Health Care, said 

More than 3,600 Shawnee County residents would become eligible for Medicaid if the Kansas Legislature were to pass an expansion bill. Additionally, more than 1,200 jobs would be created in Shawnee County, and more than $31 million in new annual health care spending would occur in the county.  

“Medicaid expansion will provide needed relief to address behavioral health issues and public safety concerns,” Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla said. “Expanding Medicaid is a tool that makes our communities safer, reduces the strain on our hospitals and jails, and keeps Topekans’ tax dollars here at home.” 

Kansans can call their state legislators and ask them to expand Medicaid at 800-432-3924.  

Roundtable participants included: 

  • Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla 
  • Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook 
  • Andy Brown, Commissioner of Behavioral Health Services for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services 
  • Bill Persinger, CEO of Valeo Behavioral Healthcare 
  • Dr. Sherrie Vaughn, Ed. D., Executive Director of NAMI Kansas 
  • Carolyn Jones, Emergency Department Director, Stormont Vail Health 
  • Calais Sherry, Kansan in the Medicaid Expansion gap 
  • Jon Antrim, Operations Manager for American Medical Response 

Photos from today’s event for media use can be found below: