- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A committee appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to examine the state’s behavioral health system is leaning toward a recommending that Kansas explore Medicaid expansion.

The panel’s tentative recommendation flies in the face of the governor’s resistance to expansion unless several conditions are met first, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1GpZ21y ) reported.

The Adult Continuum of Care Committee, comprised largely of mental health professionals, law enforcement and the judiciary, worked on recommendations Thursday that will go into its final report. The group approved language that advocates exploration of one or more models for expanding Medicaid.

“There are now multiple models and as each year that passes there are additional models in other states,” said Amy Campbell, with the Kansas Mental Health Coalition. “So whether or not Medicaid expansion can help us to serve people in the appropriate setting with the appropriate treatment like we want to depends on how that Medicaid expansion is constructed.”

The committee, commissioned by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, was assigned to seek ways to strengthen the state’s behavioral health system, including identifying gaps in services.

Behavioral health services commissioner Bill Rein urged the panel to focus on short-term recommendations that KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett can implement without additional legislation.

The committee’s work comes as Osawatomie State Hospital has capped its population at 146 beds, with new patients accepted once the population drops below that threshold. The federal government has demanded renovations that have temporarily closed parts of the building.

“The secretary really wanted something that she could perhaps implement very shortly - between now and the end of the first phase of construction,” Rein said.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said last month that the governor has insisted on three conditions before opening up Medicaid to able-bodied adults.

The conditions include that the state first must provide necessary services to eligible disabled Kansans who are on waiting lists; that any expansion plan must be budget neutral and fiscally sustainable over the long term; and that the federal government give states the option of adding a work requirement component to help recipients transition to full-time employment with private health insurance.

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

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