Three or four months from now, the National Alliance on Mental Illness office in Kansas may be closed.
“The future is uncertain,” said Rick Cagan, the office’s executive director.
It’s uncertain because most of the office’s funding has long been tied to a $150,000 grant from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Earlier this year, KDADS officials announced they had decided not to renew the grant as part of an effort to better coordinate efforts to promote behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, reduce problem gambling and prevent suicide.
KDADS officials have said they expect to announce the guidelines for applying for the new grants within the next three weeks. The new grants, they say, will be awarded in June; the current grants expire June 30.
How NAMI’s services fit within the guidelines remains to be seen.
“It’s hard to tell at this point,” Cagan said. “KDADS has been saying the RFP (request for proposals) will be focused on better integration and better promotion of mental health, addiction, suicide prevention and problem gaming. All of these are good things to focus on, but we’re not convinced they fit with the core services that we provide, which is being the backstop for the many people who fall through the cracks in the system and helping them access the system when no one else is helping them.”
The mega-budget bill that’s now in the House includes a proviso that orders KDADS to set aside $150,000 for NAMI for the next two fiscal years. The bill has yet to pass the chamber.
But a proviso in the budget bill that passed the Senate last week would ensure NAMI’s funding for only 30 days after the new contracts are awarded.
The proviso’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park and a member of the chamber’s budget and health policy committees, said it’s meant to protect NAMI’s day-to-day operations if the grants are not awarded as planned.
Denning’s proviso stops short of telling KDADS what to include in the RFP.
“I’m a big believer in NAMI, and I think they’ll do fine,” Denning said. “But KDADS is telling us they think they can increase efficiency and maybe reduce some overlap between programs. I think we need to see what that process produces. If there are problems with it, I would let KDADS and NAMI work that out.”
Prior to its passage, the Senate bill was folded into a House measure, a so-called “gut-and-go” procedure that allows the House to take a straight yes-or-no vote on whether to concur. Legislative leaders sometimes use the procedure when they want to prevent amendments and move bills quickly.
If the House were to adopt the Senate-passed bill, Denning’s provision would remain intact. But if the House were to insist on working a budget bill of its own, the NAMI-funding proviso would be subject to conference committee negotiations.
Meanwhile, the House budget bill has been added to a Senate bill as well.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Cagan said. “I guess we’ll find out more this week.”
NAMI is the only organization mentioned in the House proviso. The Senate proviso includes NAMI and four other advocacy programs affected by the KDADS decision to reconfigure its grants. The four programs, their missions and their current grant amounts:
- Families Together, provides training and support for parents of children with physical and developmental disabilities, $243,894.
- Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas, provides training programs designed to help people with developmental disabilities advocate for themselves, $97,000.
- Kansas Family Partnership, administers several initiatives aimed at reducing drug and alcohol use among children, teens and families, $418,500.
- Keys for Networking, advocates for families with children with serious emotional disorders, $150,000.
“We’re in the same place we’ve been for the past couple weeks,” said Mary Ellen Conlee, a lobbyist who’s also president of the Keys for Networking governing board. “We’re working with KDADS to find out what it is they’re looking for and how we might be successful in continuing to provide the services we’ve been providing for the past 20-plus years. We’re hopeful, but at this point I don’t know that any of us know how this is going to end.”
Attempts to reach representatives of Kansas Family Partnership, Families Together and Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas on Monday were unsuccessful.
KDADS also has announced its intent to cut $160,000 from a peer support programs for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
The programs, also known as “consumer run organizations” or CROs, are expected to spend $970,000 in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“We’re hoping to hang on, but we took a big hit a couple years ago and now we’re taking another one,” said Koleen Garrison, leadership academy coordinator with the Kansas Consumer Advisory Council for Adult Mental Health, a group that helps coordinate CRO activities across the state. “All we’ve been told is that we’re not going to get as much as we’re getting this year.”
There are CROs in Arkansas City, Augusta, Colby, Dodge City, Hays, Independence, Lawrence, Kansas City, Liberal, Manhattan, Newton, Olathe, Osawatomie, Parsons, Topeka, Wellington and Wichita.