Future state funding uncertain for planned mental health center


Pawnee Mental Health Services’ planned new regional mental health stabilization center might see a funding gap from July 1 and December 31 of 2019, Executive Director Robbin Cole told the Manhattan City Commission at their Tuesday work session.

Pawnee was awarded a $725,000 state grant this past July to establish the new Manhattan facility as well as cover operational costs through the end of June 2019. It is planned to have beds for six patients at a time — three who will be under a 24 hour or less crisis observation and three who will receive crisis stabilization services which can last for up to 10 days with reevaluation every 72 hours. The facility will only serve patients who voluntarily admit themselves for treatment.

Cole said Pawnee’s Board of Directors was in the process of voting to approve the purchase of a building to house the facility during Tuesday’s Manhattan City Commission meeting, but language in Kansas’ budget bill passed in May has obscured the center’s future funding beyond next June.

Cole highlighted a section of the bill to the Manhattan commissioners that states “no crisis center shall receive an amount of moneys from the [Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services] that is less than the amount that such crisis center received in fiscal year 2018.” She said that while the law does say that, the bill lists four specific centers and the funds they received from FY2018 moneys and leaves off Pawnee Mental Health.

“I think there’s a conflict possibly in the law,” Cole told the commissioners Tuesday.

Cole said KDADS Financial Information Services Commissioner Brad Riley told her there is “probably no money in fiscal year ’19 for Pawnee” as a result.

Cole said she thinks Pawnee’s funding should be protected under the spirit of the law, but they were not specifically named because they didn’t have a signed contract with the state at the time the budget bill was passed.

“I feel like we’re going to need to advocate very strongly that Pawnee Mental Health should be treated no differently than the other four community crisis stabilization units that received funding in fiscal year ’18,” Cole said. “And the law calls for that.”

Commissioner Wynn Butler said Pawnee being left out of the budget bill is a “huge loophole” that could be exploited.

“We’ve got to get with our state legislators and ask them to amend that [bill],” Butler said. “That’s got to be number one because as I look at this budgeting formula, without this state money this is going to collapse.”

Butler said the city isn’t in the position to be able to fill that $725,000 gap if state funding is not secured.

“There might be something you can do in that time frame to ask for special alcohol funds [like]we use for the co-responders,” he said. “But I think we’ve got to put some huge focus on pressuring our delegation up there to be sure the lawyers don’t cause us problems.”

In anticipation of that funding gap, Cole said she is going to be working with the 10 counties Pawnee serves on a sustainability plan that includes an agreement similar to what nine of them already have with the North Central Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Facility. In that model, counties pay different rates based on the average utilization of the center. They could also include a higher fee for services for counties that don’t enter into the agreement or those outside of their service area.

“But that’s going to take some time to work out with the counties,” said Cole. “And that very likely would not be something that could be implemented until January of 2020.”

Mayor Pro Tempore said that with 9 out of 10 counties already familiar with a similar agreement, it’s possible that process could be sped up.

“That’s kind of a function of how comfortable they are [with that agreement]and then when they finalize their budgets,” Dodson said. “But if we proceed with good speed down that path that would certainly help with our funding and close that gap.”

She said that the sustainability model would also include user fees, either paid by Medicaid, private insurance or a price calculated on an income-based sliding scale for uninsured patients.

“I expect that a lot of people who use this service might be individuals who lack the capacity to pay for the service that they’ll be receiving,” Cole said.

She also said that revenue from state lottery vending machines may help out, but it could take some time for those to be installed in stores and for tax income from sales of those tickets to ramp up.


About Author

Nick McNamara

Local government reporter, sometimes host/producer of the KMAN Morning Show. 2017 Long Beach State graduate in Journalism/Native American cultures. Los Angeles County born and raised. Nick can be reached at Nick@1350KMAN.com.

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