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Bill Would Allow Medicaid Funding For Mental Health ‘Clubhouse’ Programs

File Photo
Kansas News Service
Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, introduced a bill to allow mental health rehabilitation programs known as clubhouses to bill Medicaid. A House committee plans to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Some Kansas lawmakers hope allowing community-based rehabilitation programs to bill Medicaid for their services will help more people with mental illnesses find work.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow the psychosocial rehabilitation programs known as “clubhouses” to claim reimbursement from Medicaid as allowed by federal law. Some states already allow clubhouses to receive Medicaid funds.

Hawkins said officials with Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration told him last year that they would make changes to allow Medicaid reimbursement for clubhouses. They didn’t do that, he said, so he introduced a bill to advance the issue.

Kansas has only one licensed clubhouse, Breakthrough Club in Wichita. The club’s supporters testified in favor of the bill Thursday at the Statehouse. No one testified in opposition.

Despite the name, clubhouses aren’t primarily social organizations, said Barb Andres, executive director of Breakthrough Club. They have paid staff who help people with mental illnesses develop work and relationship skills, she said.

Clubhouse programs are designed to supplement the medication and therapy a client receives from a community mental health center, Andres said. Breakthrough Club serves about 250 people annually but could serve about 500 if it had more funding, she said.

Kevin Dohrer, a Breakthrough Club client, said when he joined about eight years ago, the clubhouse could offer more services, such as job coaching and case management. He said Medicaid funds could make up for some of the budget cuts the clubhouse faced in recent years.

“I hope to see us back to our former glory,” he said. “We have that potential. We just need to have that funding.”

Dohrer, who has schizoaffective disorder, said getting to know members who have similar conditions helped him to see that he still could achieve his goals. He works in an auto parts store and is attending college.

“When you start out (after a mental health diagnosis), you feel kind of lonely and hopeless, but then you meet other people who’ve been there and they’re living their lives,” he said.

The bill would set up a three-year trial period for funding clubhouses. Kansas could choose to extend payments or let them lapse at that time. Hawkins also said the committee would consider capping payments to limit the state’s expenses.

The bill is scheduled for a committee vote Tuesday.

Meg Wingerter is a reporter for KCUR’s Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach her on Twitter @MegWingerter. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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