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Report: Medicaid Expansion Vital to Mental Health

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says gaps in mental health care could be addressed if every state-including Kansas-would expand Medicaid as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act.

Rick Cagan, who heads NAMI Kansas, says the state’s system of community mental health centers is supposed to provide help for Kansans with mental illness, regardless of their ability to pay. But budget cuts have left public mental health providers unable to meet the needs…

“Technically, there are no waiting lists for services, but individuals who are showing up today for service could be waiting four, six, eight weeks for a medical appointment," he says. "And if they need medication, among other things, to help them do better, it’s gonna be awhile before they get access to that.”

The NAMI report says more than 21,000 Kansans with mental illness--but no health insurance—would qualify for Medicaid under the expansion, giving them a way to pay for the care they need.

Cagan says that would increase their chances of becoming employed in the future, which could allow them to eventually get off of Medicaid, and onto private insurance. But Cagan says leaving those Kansans without mental health care will lead to higher costs to taxpayers for incarceration, state hospitals, and emergency room visits.