During the 2022 session, legislators discussed the need for additional mental health beds in the state and included a proviso in 2022 HB 2510 to create an interim study committee on Sedgwick County regional mental health bed expansion that would provide recommendations to the 2023 Legislature for consideration. The Special Committee on Mental Health Beds, charged with reviewing the need for inpatient psychiatric beds, developing a long-term plan to address mental health needs, reviewing the regional bed expansion plan, including how many beds would be constructed, reviewing best practices for operation and oversight of the expanded beds, and reviewing the long-term fiscal impact of additional beds, met five times between August and December. Conferees included representatives from state agencies, mental health advocacy organizations, the Kansas Hospital Association, Kansas Association of Counties, law enforcement officials, Sedgwick County, Larned and Osawatomie state hospitals, Kansas colleges and universities, and mental health providers. During the November 28 meeting of the Special Committee, the members outlined their recommendations for the Legislature, which included:
- Development of up to 50 state institutional beds to be located in the Sedgwick County area in a location with room for expansion;
- Initiation of this development within calendar year 2023;
- Allocation of $40 million in funding from SPARK funds, as requested by Sedgwick County, for the purchase and renovation of a facility to house the beds;
- Approval of $15 million in state general funds in fiscal year (FY) 2023 to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to be used to begin the process for a request for proposal for the project; and
- Approval of $5 million per year to KDADS for FY 2024 and FY 2025 for a two-year pilot program to reimburse Kansas hospitals that provide observation services for patients during the period prior to the availability of the new state institutional beds, as requested by the Kansas Hospital Association (KHA), including a requirement that KHA provide at least annual reporting to the Legislature regarding this reimbursement program.
During the Special Committee’s final meeting on December 21, the members focused on the issue of the behavioral health workforce in the state and conducted a roundtable discussion on various topics including:
- Increasing the accessibility of entry-level certifications for licensed mental health technicians (LMHTs) and mental health developmental disability technicians (MHDDTs), including whether recruiting for MHDDTs would be easier if all or part of the training could be transferred toward another degree;
- Reducing barriers that prevent retired behavioral health professionals from returning to the workforce, including issuing temporary licenses for those with expired licenses or those who have not completed their required continuing education credits;
- Improving incentive programs for the behavioral health workforce, such as relocation bonuses, partnering with universities for recruitment, and offering credit toward other healthcare degrees for LMHTs;
- Improving the tracking and evaluation of incentive programs to determine if they are being utilized and meeting their goals; and
- Taking steps to ensure that Kansas behavioral health professionals’ wages are comparable to those in other states and similar professions.
David Fye, Executive Director, Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board, reported that the Board is considering changes to its regulatory requirements for licensure reciprocity and also considering reducing the requirement for practicing in a specific area for a certain number of months and allowing students to complete addiction counseling, marriage and family therapy, and social work programs online rather than in-person as currently required.
Committee members also discussed the importance of access to therapy and clinical supervision for the behavioral health workforce and the need to address high patient-to-staff ratios and the stressors faced by workers in the field. The Special Committee will be submitting a report to the 2023 Legislature with their final recommendations.
Legislation to create a regulatory framework for medical marijuana in the state will likely be on the table early in the session. The 2022 Special Committee on Medical Marijuana, which was charged with studying medical marijuana regulation legislation considered by the Legislature during the 2021 and 2022 sessions – House Substitute (H Sub) for Senate Bill (SB) 158 and SB 560, respectively – and soliciting testimony from potential licensees, state agencies, medical providers, and law enforcement officials, met four times during October and December. During the meetings, legislators heard both support for and opposition to the legalization of medical marijuana from more than 60 conferees. During the Special Committee’s meeting on October 19, members also heard from professionals from other state medical marijuana programs, who spoke about their successes and struggles when implementing their programs and recommendations for committee members to consider when crafting a bill. Proponents of medical marijuana legislation have pointed to the November 8 passage of a constitutional amendment in Missouri that legalized recreational marijuana as an incentive for Kansas to at least pass medical marijuana.