Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mental health task force report released

By Dave Ranney, KHI News Service

A 16-member task force that spent much of the past year looking for ways to improve the state’s mental health system released its findings today.

“I looked forward to reading this report and working to determine which of their recommendations we want to implement,” Gov. Sam Brownback said in a prepared statement.

Included in the 38-page report are an assessment of the system’s shortcomings and more than 40 recommendations for expanding access to treatment.

“The big thing to take away from this (report), I think, is that there needs to be a lot more integration of services,” said Ric Dalke, a task force member and executive director at the Area Mental Health Center in Garden City. “By that I mean community mental health centers, schools, law enforcement, substance abuse (programs), medical providers. We all need to be working together, more than we are now.

“The other big take away,” he said, “is law enforcement saying that for troubled youth there’s a lack of resources that really needs to be beefed up, especially for those with substance abuse and a co-occurring brain disorder.”

A sampling of the recommendations:
  • Create a “standing intra-agency task force” to assess how well state agencies coordinate care and treatment;
  • Financial incentives for ensuring that persons with serious mental illness have access to effective treatment, regardless of their ability to pay for it;
  • Better coordination of services for mentally ill persons released from correctional facilities;
  • Encourage police departments to create “crisis intervention teams” for calls involving the mentally ill;
  • Explore the feasibility of assuring that all school children have access to counseling and nursing services.
“Much of what’s in here has been talked about in the past,” said Rick Cagan, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “But for this group, for this administration, this is taking a fresh look at the system we have in place. I think that’s a good thing, but the question now is how do we go about generating the resources that are going to have to be in place for these things to happen.”

Kyle Kessler, head of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, called the report, “a good starting point.”