Mental health needs Medicaid expansion



April 16, 2019 - 9:49 AM

The people of Kansas need Medicaid expansion to increase access to care to mental health or substance use treatment.  Not only for economic development; not only for delaying inevitable closures or consolidations of health care organizations like community mental health centers or hospitals; and not only for the purpose of becoming part of the large majority of states in our country that have chosen to expand Medicaid, although I think all of these items have a legitimate place in the conversation.  This issue is about access to care.

Mental health treatment providers in Kansas need the Kansas Legislature to pass legislation allowing our state to expand the Kansas Medicaid program. Mental health and substance use treatment are no different than any other part of health care. When someone presents for treatment, we need to take advantage of the opportunity to do what we can to help him or her. According to the Mayo Clinic, “mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect your mood, thinking and behavior” and can be caused by inherited traits from family members, environmental exposures before birth, or brain chemistry. Americans are seeking behavioral health treatment at higher rates than in the past, and Kansas is no different. For example, Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) are treating more Kansans than ever before with an increase of over 10 percent in the last five years and 27 percent in the last 10 years.  

Medicaid expansion in Kansas will save money in the long-term through timely access to care. If we think not only about treatment for mental health issues but the relationship between mental health and physical health, the sooner patients access mental health treatment, the healthier they will be physically.  Think of the connection between anxiety and hypertension or high blood pressure that results in heart disease as one example. If this patient has health insurance, she or he will be more likely to seek treatment for her or his anxiety which could help lower her or his blood pressure and prevent heart disease.

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