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With Kansas Prevention Network In Transition, Some Nonprofits See Funding Cut

Dave Ranney/KHI News

For years, Kansas has partnered with a network of regional prevention centers to alert and connect people to mental health programs and those that prevent substance abuse, suicide and problem gambling.

But that network appears to be unraveling as state officials work toward implementing what they call a more holistic, data-driven approach.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services earlier this summer notified the state’s 10 regional prevention centers that their grants set to expire June 30 would not be renewed.

“They’re closed; their staffs have been laid off,” says DulcineaRakestraw, vice president of treatment services at Preferred Family Healthcare, a drug and alcohol treatment program with offices in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.  Preferred Family also was operating three of the regional prevention centers.

Rakestraw, who also serves as president of the Kansas Association of Addiction Professionals, supports the agency’s goals but questions the process.

“All of us, I think, are looking forward to a more integrated approach,” she says. “Our reservation, however, is that the contracts ended in June and it’s already August. The old system is out, but there isn’t a new system to take its place. So there’s a piece that’s missing.”

KDADS has not released details, but several other organizations also have lost funding or seen a dramatic reduction in their grants as part of the new approach. 

The Kansas Family Partnership, a Topeka-based program best known for coordinating statewide campaigns aimed at preventing teen alcohol and drug use, is losing $418,500 in state grants.

“We are regrouping,” says Michelle Voth, the partnership’s executive director. “We are exploring other opportunities and doing some fundraising in hopes of filling in some other gaps in the system.”

Angela de Rocha, a spokesperson for KDADS, says state officials recognize that the transition period will be “uncomfortable for some.” But, she says, the changes “are necessary to move forward.”

“KDADS’ No. 1 priority in all of this is to support community-level prevention work,” she says.

As part of that goal, KDADS is restructuring its prevention efforts to award the funding that had gone to the 10 regional prevention centers instead to local prevention efforts at the community level. Those community efforts are still in the planning stage, de Rocha says, so the funding has not yet been awarded.

“The new system is set up to work with those community prevention groups to make them more effective,” she says.

Through a competitive bidding process, KDADS selected the Center for Community Support and Research at Wichita State University to design the new behavioral health system. The process, which is being funded with a $684,997 KDADS grant, is expected to take about a year.

“This will evolve over the next year as we and other partners go through some thoughtful planning about prevention in the state of Kansas,” says Scott Wituk, the center’s executive director.

The process is separate from a recent review of the behavioral health system that focused on the state’s hospitals for Kansans with severe mental health issues.

Two other organizations will help the Wichita State center with planning and implementation. The Center for Learning Tree Institute in Girard, an affiliate of the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush, will use a $606,950 KDADS grant to collect and analyze data. DCCCA Inc., a Lawrence-based nonprofit, was awarded a $346,245 grant to develop and distribute training materials.

“We’re excited about this new approach, though all of us would agree, I think, that it remains to be seen what the results will be,” says Lori Alvarado, executive director at DCCCA.

Much of the technical assistance, she says, will involve making training materials available online and “brokering relationships” among community groups selected to play a role in the new system.

Meanwhile, several nonprofit organizations that help people with behavioral health problems access services are waiting to see what will happen to their state support.

Last year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness office in Kansas and Keys for Networking each received KDADS grants of $150,000. The agency renewed both grants this year but reduced them to $100,000.

“We’re not going to close, but we are looking for alternate funding sources,” says Jane Adams, executive director of Keys for Networking.

Rick Cagan, executive director of NAMI’s Kansas office, says the funding reduction could jeopardize the organization.

“We cannot ignore losing $50,000 — that’s a third of our budget,” Cagan says. “We’ll either find a way to replace that money or we’ll hit the wall.”

Through the grant restructuring, funding for Families Together was reduced from $243,000 in fiscal year 2015 to $100,000 in the current fiscal year. The program last year helped 3,000 Kansas families with children with developmental disabilities navigate the state’s often-complex school and health care systems.

“KDADS, back in April or May, asked us to send them a proposal for $100,000 that’s limited to only families that are Medicaid eligible,” says Connie Zienkewicz, executive director of Families Together. Previously, the program’s services were available to families regardless of income.

The organization has other funding streams for families that aren’t Medicaid eligible, Zienkewicz says, but reductions in other state and federal funding will limit the number of people the organization can serve in the coming year.

“We’ll be seeing fewer families because we have fewer bodies (employees),” Zienkewicz says.

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

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