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Kansas should be known, but not for its poor mental health report

Samuel Myles

The annual state of mental health report is typically released in the autumn and provides an annual snapshot for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. There are not only statistics surrounding the need and utilization of mental health resources, but also on quality of, and access to, services. In the 2022 report, Kansas ranked 51st in the country.

Dead last in the category of Youth with a substance use disorder in the last year. 48th out of 51 in adults with a mental illness and adults with serious thoughts of suicide. And 48th in the category of access to care. In an overall ranking of adult care, Kansas was also last in a category that includes things like whether they received treatment, as well as having insurance that provides for mental health care. In the same category for youth, Kansas was 50th out of 51.

These results are unquestionably disturbing because we are not the most rural state in the nation. In fact, we’re right in the middle. We can’t blame population density, where we rank above Nevada, Idaho, the Dakotas, New Mexico, and several others. We can’t blame average GDP where we rank in the upper half and well above states like Pennsylvania, Oregon, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Florida. We can’t even blame a criteria as specific as healthcare spending per capita, where Kansas ranks 35th out of 50 above Tennessee, Washington state, both Carolinas, Colorado, and more. There is something unique about Kansas that has created an utter lack of mental health practitioners, clinicians, and other providers, and it puts our children, our parents, and our families at risk. I want Kansas to be known just as much as you do… but not for this.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.