- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The director of a central Kansas mental health facility is uncertain whether the facility should accept a $1.1 million federal loan because of concerns about state funding.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced earlier this month that it awarded a $1.1 million loan to The Guidance Center to expand its clinic in Oskaloosa. The center also has clinics in Leavenworth and Atchison.

Keith Rickard, executive director of The Guidance Center, said the 2,400-square-foot clinic needs more space to meet with clients.

“Our Oskaloosa community mental health center is about half the size we need for the work we’re doing there,” he said.

The organization would have to repay the federal money, but at more favorable terms than it would likely get from a commercial lender, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1OlV0f 0).

Rickard said the center’s board of directors hasn’t decided if it will take the money because of concerns over state funding. Kansas faces a projected deficit of about $160 million for the fiscal year that begins in July. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has said that the state budget is in good shape despite the projected shortfall.

But Rickard said the center relies on Medicaid, which provides about $6.5 million of its budget. The state general fund also granted about $960,000 to the center in past years.

“That’s at risk any time the government can’t meet its obligations,” he said.

Rickard said the USDA will hold the loan for five years if the center decides not to use it immediately.

Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said concerns about state grant funding are likely unfounded.

“But I do know there is nothing in the current (fiscal year) budget or the budget for next year that would threaten state grant funding to The Guidance Center or any other (community mental health center),” de Rocha wrote in an email.

She said concerns may stem from worries about Medicaid funding. The centers have received funding for mental health screening in the past. But under certain conditions the federal government no longer allows KanCare, the state’s Medicaid system, to pay for the screening.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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