KHI News Service

SRS plans 2.5 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements

Mental health consumers' council also defunded

By Dave Ranney | June 23, 2011

Representatives of several social service providers have been told this week by state welfare officials to expect a 2.5 percent reduction in their Medicaid reimbursements effective July 1.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services are expected to officially announce the cuts sometime in the next several days.

The reduction would be separate from an earlier 3 percent cut to SRS-administered grants and contracts announced last week.

SRS officials have said they need to cut the department’s state general fund spending by almost $24 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

It is unclear for now what services would be affected by the 2.5-percent reduction or how much that is expected to save the agency.

SRS officials did not respond to a KHI News Service request for comment.

In another apparent cost cutting move at the agency, financial support was withdrawn last week from a program that helps mentally ill people cope.

“I was called after hours last Thursday and told we were being cut from the budget, 100 percent,” said Gary Parker, executive director for the Kansas Consumer Advisory Council for Adult Mental Health.

The council, he said, had expected to receive about $240,000 from SRS in fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. The council has been funded by the state for several years.

“The state is going through some hard times, I understand that,” said Parker, who lives in Colby. “But we’re a tiny portion of the SRS budget and, really, so much of what we do helps keep people out of the state hospitals.

Cutting us like they have, I’m afraid, is only going to cause the state hospital numbers to go up, which will only make SRS’ costs go up."

Coincidently, SRS issued a memo Thursday, asking law enforcement officials to delay referrals to Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City and Osawatomie State Hospitals due to overcrowding.

Rainbow had 36 patients, two more than its licensed capacity; Osawatomie State Hospital had 188, 12 more than its capacity.

The advisory council oversees a network 23 “consumer run organizations" that help people cope with their illnesses.

“We do a lot of peer-support training,” Parker said.

Parker and the advisory council’s 17 members are mentally ill. Each has had first-hand experience with the state’s mental health system.

The advisory council also sponsors an annual leadership academy, a recovery conference, and workshops on trauma informed care.

“This is a big loss,” said Susan Crain Lewis, chief executive of Mental Health America of the Heartland in Kansas City, referring to the council's loss of funding.

“CROs do an incredible job in linking people to services and getting them integrated into the community,” she said.

Parker said he didn't know if the advisory council would be forced to close down.

"I'll be contacting some national organizations to see what our options are," he said. "Right now, I don't know."