Kansas Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto On Mental Health Funding

May 29, 2019

Kansas lawmakers restored mental health funding for Sedgwick County’s Community Crisis Center and two other mental health centers Wednesday.

They voted to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s line-item veto in the 2019 budget despite a last-minute agreement to resolve the funding issue.

Before lawmakers convened for their last day in the session, the governor’s office announced the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) had shifted money in its budget to cover the $1.9 million cut and assured that the mental health centers in Wichita, Topeka and Salina would receive their funding.

Sedgwick County’s Comcare, the state's largest community mental health agency, operates the Community Crisis Center. The supplemental funding was to pay for the second half of the fiscal year 2019 (January to June). The center received its first payment of $650,000 from the state in late 2018.

Republican Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita and other lawmakers were skeptical that KDADS suddenly found money to use for mental health services.

“We heard, 'Oh, the governor found the money.' I didn’t hear that in her veto," Landwehr says. "What I did hear is that she said they didn’t need any additional money. And that was a direct quote."

The lawmakers said the veto override provides certainty that mental health services would be funded.

“I’m not comforted that it is just okay to shift the money from Osawatomie State Hospital,” says Republican Sen. Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg.

A spokeswoman for KDADS has not responded to requests for comment. Democratic lawmakers urged colleagues to sustain the veto because the funding agreement resolved the issue.

The governor said in a news release that cutting $1.9 million in supplemental funding for community mental health centers was “an effort to more evenly distribute reinvestment in Kansas government.”

Republican Rep. Nick Hoheisel says the supplemental funding was not additional funding. It replaced a lottery vending machine revenue stream that has not yet come to fruition.

The 2020 state budget provides an additional $5 million for mental health services when it takes effect in July.

Since it opened in 2015, the Community Crisis Center has reduced EMS transports, jail incarceration rates, hospital costs and state hospital admissions.

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