Policy & Research


Issue Brief: Health Reform Likely to Increase Demand on Mental Health System

Most Kansas Counties Already Have a Shortage of Providers

By Emily Meissen-Sebelius, M.S.W. | May 30, 2014


The Kansas Mental Health System: Health Reform Likely to Increase Demand

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Recently released federal data show the Kansas mental health system could expect up to 7,700 new patients due to expansion of insurance coverage under ObamaCare. This influx of patients could create strain on the mental health system in some Kansas communities.

The Kansas Health Institute has issued a new brief that looks at how many Kansans experience mental illness, how many receive treatment, and how federal and state policies may affect the mental health system.

Survey data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2010 and 2011) show:

More than 371,000 Kansas adults (21.6 percent) reported they experienced mental illness of some type in the past year (age 18 to 64).

Less than half (47.6 percent) of those with mental illness reported receiving treatment. Reasons varied, but national data showed that most adults reported that cost and a lack of insurance were the biggest barriers to receiving services.

All but the five most populous Kansas counties do not have enough mental health providers, and are designated as Mental Health – Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows for improved insurance coverage for people with mental illness, who can no longer be turned away or charged higher premiums due to pre-existing conditions. The law also makes insurance more affordable for some lower-income individuals by allowing them to use federal tax credits to purchase private insurance in the health insurance marketplaces. These factors will likely contribute to more patients who may choose to utilize mental health services in the state.

Kansas has decided not to expand its Medicaid program to all adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($32,913 per year for a family of four), as originally designed by the ACA. If Kansas does expand, however, even more Kansans could be covered for mental health services.

With the expectation that more patients will enter the mental health system, there is concern that there may not be enough providers in some communities to meet the increased demand. All Kansas counties except Johnson, Wyandotte, Sedgwick, Douglas and Shawnee are designated by the federal government as having a shortage of mental health professionals, and 47 percent of the population lives in a county with this problem.

“Demand for mental health services could increase due to changes in federal- and state-level policy,” said Scott Brunner, KHI senior analyst and strategy team leader. “It will be important to monitor the capacity of the Kansas mental health system to make sure mental health services are available for Kansans in need.”

→ Download this issue brief here (PDF).

For more information

Contact Lisa R. Jones, Director of Strategic Communications

(785) 233-5443 or ljones@khi.org

The Kansas Health Institute delivers credible information and research enabling policy leaders to make informed health policy decisions that enhance their effectiveness as champions for a healthier Kansas. The Kansas Health Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy and research organization based in Topeka that was established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.