Senate Committee Hears From Mental Health Advocates

Mar 21, 2014


Although Kentucky lawmakers are not considering any major health reforms this session, the topic often still makes it onto legislative agendas.  That was the case this week, as the Senate Health and Welfare Committee heard from mental health advocates. 

Representatives from organizations that provide assistance to those with mental illness believe Medicaid managed care is creating some hardships for patients.  Committee Chair Julie Denton's not sure if lawmakers can set aside more money for these services.

"Squeaky wheels get oiled and priorities get money, so we'll see who's squeaky and what the priorities end up being collectively of the general assembly," she said. 

Louisville District Judge David Holton says it's partly a question of what's the best way to spend scarce dollars.

"Lot less expensive to treat them on the front end than it is to incarcerate on the back end,” he said. “And it's not just that, it's giving back these Kentuckians their lives."  

Thousands of Kentucky Medicaid patients are receiving treatment through managed care programs.  It's those changes that some mental health advocates say are hindering progress in dealing with the mental conditions. 

Committee member and former governor Julian Carrol says calls about government being too big are being heard in communities and in the state capitol.

"But, that grass root effort that's hurt us in government, has extended to legislators who are unwilling to produce the extra dollars that we need to support programs such as this," he said.

Denton says any additional money to help agencies meet the needs of the mentally ill would likely come during budget negotiations.