- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his administration announced Tuesday an investment of $9.5 million in state and federal funds to expand mental health services and agency coordination.

Brownback said the goal was to address the causes of mental health problems and provide treatment to people who use state services or are in the corrections system. He said he wanted to see Kansas increase services to provide access to mental health care to people who are in need.

“This is about identifying people early before a large tragedy happens,” Brownback said.

The governor, who has supported legislation to expand the state’s concealed-carry weapons laws, has said previously that increased identification and treatment for mental health issues should be a state and national focus.

Recent mass shooting incidents in Santa Barbara, California, as well as Connecticut and Colorado have increased calls for stricter gun controls from several groups including the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Jennifer Fuson of the center said one piece of legislation sought would allow family members to petition the courts to impose a restraining order on someone who posed an elevated risk to themselves or others.

On the books in Connecticut and being considered in California, Fuson said the law requires a person facing the restraining order to relinquish their firearms for the duration of the order. Kansas lawmakers haven’t considered such legislation.

Brownback said the coordination of various agencies at the state and local level would result in better use of resources and outcomes. He cited an example of uniting K-12 schools with technical colleges in recent years to increase the number of graduates with advanced training by better aligning education. The program has seen a 60 percent growth in the number of students enrolled in technical education classes in two years.

“To this point we have concentrating on building our infrastructure. Now we are beginning to invest in specific programs,” he said.

Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said $7 million in federal funds from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program toward helping families with members who have behavioral health problems. Gilmore said specifics were still being worked out for how the money would be spent, but the goal was to help keep families together and to find employment and treatment for individuals with mental illness.

Law enforcement will also use state funds to improve training for officers to identify people in crisis. That will include training to better identify individuals in need of mental health services who are either incarcerated or whom law enforcement encounter when responding to calls.

The expansion of services was recommended by a mental health task force formed by Brownback in July 2013.

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