By Tim DeWeese | Nov. 7, 2019

Last week the Kansas Senate leadership unveiled its proposed legislation on Medicaid expansion in response to the Kansas House of Representatives bill that passed last session. Regardless of how the Senate and House compromise to formulate a comprehensive approach to expand Medicaid and improve access to health care, the legislature must understand the importance of Medicaid expansion to Johnson County and its residents.

Johnson County Mental Health Center (JCMHC) is a department of county government with more than 300 employees and an annual budget of $36 million. Our county’s elected officials understand the importance of a strong mental health system and the impact it has on our community from a both the human and financial perspectives.

In 2018, JCMHC provided service to nearly 10,000 county residents and provided more than $7.2 million worth of charitable care. If Medicaid were expanded in Kansas, nearly $3.5 million of that charitable care would be covered under the expansion. Even though county residents pay federal income tax that funds the federal portion of Medicaid expansion, they do not receive the benefits of that in Kansas. Their county property tax dollars have had to make up the difference, in effect making taxpayers pay for the service twice.

We strongly support Medicaid expansion in Kansas. State-wide, the absence of Medicaid expansion has resulted in a struggling mental health system that continues to be underfunded, resulting in a system that is experiencing the consequences of untreated or inadequately treated mental illness such as:

  • Increased involvement in the criminal justice system
  • Increased incarceration
  • Increased drug and alcohol abuse
  • Increased underage drinking
  • Increased hospitalization or institutional care
  • Lost jobs
  • Family breakup
  • School failure
  • Premature death
  • Increased suicide rate

Tim DeWeese is the director of Johnson County Mental Health Center