- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Citing a continued rise in the number of inmates with a mental illness, the Kansas Department of Corrections is seeking additional funding to treat more of them.

Ray Roberts, Kansas corrections secretary, told the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday that 38 percent of the state’s prisoner population has some sort of mental illness. That’s a 126 percent increase since 2006, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1hLmVay ) reported.

“In order to just stay functional, there has to be some expansion of mental health management,” Roberts said.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget adjustments call for $3 million in 2014 and an additional $4.1 million to fully fund the Corrections Department’s health care contract with Corzon, which includes mental health care.

Sen. Dan Kerschen, a Garden Plain Republican, said he was surprised by the number of inmates with a mental illness.

“Well, that’s an alarming number because it looks like it’s continued to grow, and we probably have to figure out a way to fund that so we can treat those individuals,” he said after the meeting.

The Department of Corrections is the state’s largest mental health care provider, said Jeremy Barclay, corrections spokesman. Increased funding would allow the department to hire more clinicians and offer mental health services to more inmates, he said.

The rising number of mentally ill prisoners is a trend nationwide, Roberts said.

Inmate programs in the state have been reduced by about 60 percent since 2009, Roberts said, which has resulted in gaps. Sixty-six percent of inmates are substance abusers, for instance, but only 10 percent of released offenders with substance abuse problems receive services, he said.

Treatment is more expensive for inmates with mental health needs, Roberts said, because of the high cost of psychotropic drugs.

Brownback vetoed the corrections budget for 2015 last year, saying the department needed more funding.

Other increases in the 2015 budget include 28 more corrections officers for Topeka Correctional Facility after a U.S. Department of Justice audit found that the prison had insufficient staffing, Roberts said.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com