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Behavioral Health Initiatives Top Sedgwick County's 2020 Legislative Platform

Deborah Shaar
KMUW/File photo
Sedgwick County commissioners approved the county's 2020 Legislative Platform last month.

Behavioral health initiatives dominate Sedgwick County’s list of state legislative priorities for a second year.

That’s because several key issues didn’t advance last session, including the push for the state to establish a regional mental health facility in Sedgwick County.

The county also supports increasing Medicaid rates for behavioral health, continued funding for community crisis centers and addressing the behavioral health needs of the uninsured and underinsured.

Sedgwick County adopted its list of priorities last month that it would like to see state lawmakers take up during the 2020 legislative session, which begins later this month. The legislative platform renews the push for mental health care reform, and calls for an $8.2 million increase in funding to the Community Mental Health Care system, including Sedgwick County’s Comcare.

The platform also calls for legislation to give Sedgwick County authority to address nuisance properties. A bill was introduced in a Kansas House committee last year, but failed to advance.

Sedgwick County wants to be able to abate certain nuisance issues and charge the property owner if necessary.

Sedgwick County Counselor Mike Pepoon says the goal is to protect residents from unsafe conditions.

“There are only a few examples that we have had over the years that we would use it," he said, "but it’s certainly a tool that we want in our toolbox."

Pepoon says the county would use the abatement authority judiciously and in a manner consistent with constitutional due process.

Sedgwick County has thousands of farms, with about 40,000 people living outside city limits.

The county is also interested in legislation granting Sedgwick County, as an urban area, the ability to establish a charter commission specific to Sedgwick County.

The county adopts a legislative platform each year to designate priorities for its lobbyist and local state lawmakers.

Sedgwick County commissioners also identified nine secondary issues of importance, and approved a joint partner statement supporting the legislative initiatives of key partners in the region.

Sedgwick County 2020 Legislative Platform:

1. Strengthen and enhance the Medicaid safety net through enhanced rates for behavioral health. Support a 4% rate increase for behavioral health reimbursement codes to address increasing costs of service.

2. Support regional state mental hospital facilities, including one in Sedgwick County. We support a regional state mental hospital facility in Sedgwick County to consist of approximately 25-30 beds as recommended by the Mental Health Coalition.

3. Address the behavioral health needs of the uninsured and underinsured. Restore the promise of Mental Health Reform and support an $8.2 million request for increased funding to the CMHC system including Comcare.

4. Support Community Crisis Center Funding. Support and enhance current funding for community crisis centers.

5. Nuisance abatement authority for Sedgwick County. Support legislation allowing Sedgwick County, as an urban area, the authority to abate nuisance properties judiciously and in a manner consistent with constitutional due process.

6. Create a Charter Commission: Support legislation granting Sedgwick County as an urban area the ability to establish a charter commission specific to Sedgwick County.

Issues of Importance:

1. Amend K.S.A. 79-4803 to return funding from state gaming revenues to juvenile detention facilities. Support legislation that returns needed funding to address rising operational costs, such as medical, food and facility costs, for juvenile detention facilities.

2. Increase funding for state-mandated Community Corrections Adult Intensive Supervision Programs. Support an increase in vital funding for this state mandated program that works to reduce recidivism in the state penal system through local supervision and enhanced, evidence based programming.

3. Increase funding for Community Corrections Adult Resident Centers. Support increased funding for this important, community based, and more cost effective alternative to jail and prison incarceration which has not seen a funding increase in twenty years.

4. Domestic Violence. Support legislation aimed at reducing recidivism in domestic violence offenders by requiring first time offenders to participate in the Kansas Batterer Prevention Program so long as such legislation does not create an unfunded mandate for local governments.

5. Amend KORA to Protect the Privacy of Detention Officers. Support amending the Kansas Open Records Act so that detention deputies and former law enforcement officers can maintain the privacy of their home addresses.

6. Address Influx of Suspended Licenses. Amend Kansas motor vehicle laws to allow citizens who have paid their fines or child support to get their drivers’ licenses reinstated.

7. Scrap Metal Data Base. Support efforts by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to adequately fund and maintain a scrap metal data base as required by the Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act adopted in 2015.

8. Expanded Gaming. If the State supports legislation expanding gaming for Sedgwick County and South Central Kansas (including sports gaming) a portion of the revenues derived from such gaming should be distributed to Sedgwick County to address behavioral health needs in our community.

9. Loan Forgiveness. Support legislation providing for a State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) which would enable County employees to receive student loan forgiveness if employed at COMCARE or the Health Department for being designated as a professionally underserved area.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.