- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at increasing access to mental health services in rural areas.

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony on the bill Thursday. It would approve loans for medical students who agree to practice psychiatry in counties other than Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee or Wyandotte. The state already provides loans for students who agree to practice primary care. Students who fail to uphold the agreement have to repay the loan.

Testimony from the Kansas Psychiatric Society says all but five counties have mental health professional shortages. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck says the bill could help address staffing shortages at the state’s mental health hospitals, Larned and Osawatomie.

Osawatomie State Hospital lost its federal certification in December 2015.

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