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Government

State Legislators Hear Local Concerns Before Heading Back To Topeka

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Sean Sandefur
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KMUW
An attendee at Wednesday's forum in Wichita speaks before members of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation.

More than a dozen state representatives from south-central Kansas participated in a public forum Wednesday night in Wichita.

 

Topics from local residents included medical marijuana, the state’s economy, and gun regulation.

The discussion also included the Osawatamie State Hospital, one of two state-run facilities for patients with severe forms of mental illness. 

Osawatomie was recently decertified by federal officials for what they called "widespread security problems," and the hospital is currently accepting new patients on a limited basis.

Many of the people gathered in a conference room at the Sedgwick County Courthouse for the public forum wanted legislators to act on this issue. 

Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita said he hears them.

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Credit Sean Sandefur / KMUW
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KMUW
Members of the legislative delegation listen at a public forum in Wichita Wednesday.

“We have failed in the last three years to provide resources to that facility," Ward said. "We are, at this point, decertified. What does that mean? We’re losing a million dollars a month and putting our communities at risk. That’s job number one when we go back--to address Osawatomie State Hospital.”

Many other people spoke more generally about mental health issues in Kansas, saying the state needs to allot more money to programs that help those struggling with illnesses of all kinds.

Wichita State student Marcillene Dover, who has multiple sclerosis, wanted to talk Medicaid expansion. She says she falls into the the Medicaid gap, which means she makes too much money for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for help with Obamacare.

“Just because I don’t make $20,000 a year, I don’t think that that should disqualify me from being able to get help paying for insurance," Dover said. "I would have to pay $180 a month, and that’s just something that I can’t afford.”

Dover urged her representatives to help expand Medicaid to Kansas, which, so far, Gov. Brownback and a Republican majority have refused to do.

Other comments from the forum included lessening the penalties for first-time marijuana use, changes to the state's concealed carry laws and getting the state economy back on track.

Legislators are due back in Topeka for the new legislative session on Monday.

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Follow Sean Sandefur on Twitter @SeanSandefur

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