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Senate passes mental health drug compromise

Medicaid coverage for donor breast milk also part of legislation

By Andy Marso | March 23, 2015

Legislators of all political stripes came together this week as the Senate passed a compromise bill regarding regulation of mental health drugs dispensed under Medicaid.

Mental health advocates had balked at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's earlier bid to repeal a law barring the state from imposing any restrictions on psychotropic medications under Medicaid. A bill to do so failed to clear the Senate in February.

But a compromise bill that allows some regulations like prior authorization, subject to approval from a new advisory committee made up of mental health providers garnered support. The new bill passed its initial Senate vote verbally Monday and passed its final Senate vote 40-0 Tuesday. 

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a conservative Republican who chairs the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said it would be an important step to identifying potentially improper prescribing patterns for psychotropic medications.

“We need better state monitoring for our patients on psychotropic drugs in the Medicaid program,” Pilcher-Cook said.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat from Topeka who voted against the previous mental health drug bill, thanked Pilcher-Cook for encouraging stakeholders on both sides of that bill “to come up with a compromise that actually seems to work.”

“To me it’s a much-improved bill and I believe it will serve the citizens of Kansas well — from the very young to the very elderly,”

- Sen. Vicki Schmidt, Topeka Republican

Kelly, referencing data that suggests possible misuse of mental health drugs for children and the elderly, said the compromise bill addresses concerns about the “overdosing of young children with psychotropics and also the use of psychotropics as sort of a chemical restraint in our nursing homes.”

“I’m very happy we’ve got this now,” Kelly said.

Kelly said she hoped Pilcher-Cook would include follow-up study of those issues in future meetings of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a moderate Republican from Topeka, also thanked Pilcher-Cook for working on the compromise.

“To me it’s a much-improved bill and I believe it will serve the citizens of Kansas well — from the very young to the very elderly,” said Schmidt, a pharmacist.

The mental health bill was combined with a separate measure to require Medicaid coverage of donor breast milk used for premature babies in neonatal intensive care units.

The combined bill still requires House approval.