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Conference Committee Upholds Cut For Kansas Safety Net Clinics

A conference committee agreed Wednesday to adopt a budget bill that cuts $378,000 from a grant program that supports safety net clinics throughout Kansas.

“We’re greatly disappointed,” said Denise Cyzman, executive director of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, an organization that represents the 43 safety net clinics in Kansas.

“We understand they (legislators) have a tough time ahead of them,” she said. “But still, we weren’t expecting this — not after all the feedback we’d received from them about how supportive they are, about how they feel like safety net clinics are a great use of money, how we have increased numbers of patients and how, at least at this point, KanCare won’t be expanding.”

KanCare is the state’s privatized Medicaid program, and Kansas is one of 22 states that have opted not to expand Medicaid eligibility to cover more low-income adults.

The $378,000 cut, Cyzman said, likely means the clinics will care for 1,350 fewer patients.

The vast majority of the clinics’ patients are uninsured or on Medicaid. All but a few are low-income.

“I know that for some people, $378,000 may not sound like a lot of money,” she said. “But for our clinics, it’s huge.”

The $378,000 cut is in addition to the $250,000 that was cut from the $7 million grant program — all state general fund dollars — late last year. Both cuts were initially proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration.

The six-member conference committee also agreed to drop a proviso that set aside $150,000 for the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In recent weeks, NAMI-Kansas members have called legislators’ attention to the potential for the advocacy organization to lose its $150,000 grant from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. The department recently announced it was restructuring some grants to better coordinate efforts to promote behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, reduce problem gambling and prevent suicide.

KDADS officials have said the reconfigured grants should be awarded in May or June.

“It doesn’t look good for us,” said NAMI-Kansas Executive Director Rick Cagan.

Earlier this week, the Department of Administration released two of the three requests for proposals for the new grants. Cagan said NAMI-Kansas intends to apply for at least one of the grants.

The current NAMI-Kansas grant, which expires June 30, accounts for about half of the association’s budget.

In other action, the conference committee upheld provisos to add $500,000 to Osawatomie State Hospital’s operational budget and to indefinitely delay the implementation of so-called health homes for Medicaid patients with chronic conditions.

The budget bill, which passed the Senate last week, now goes to the full House.

The House and Senate are due to adjourn Friday, returning April 29 for a wrap-up session.

Dave Ranney is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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