By Dave Ranney
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday adopted budget provisos to extend a mental health advocacy group’s funding for at least another year, put $2 million back into the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund and provide level funding for the state’s Parents as Teachers program.
The provisos were added to the committee’s so-called mega budget bill and forwarded to the House for debate later this week.
Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado and chairman of the House Social Services Budget Committee, proposed:
- Rescinding an earlier plan to cut $200,000 from the state-funded portion of the Parents as Teachers program’s $7.2 million budget while shifting $200,000 into the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
- Restoring $2 million of the $14.5 million that Gov. Sam Brownback proposed sweeping from the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund, a repository for revenue generated by the state’s tobacco master settlement agreement.
- Directing the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to set aside $150,000 for the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“The $150,000 for NAMI will be coming out of the KDADS budget in (fiscal) 2016 and 2017,” Carpenter said after the committee meeting. “It’s a good program, it provides a safety net for a lot of people and it’s a great organization with a lot of volunteers.”
Last month, KDADS officials announced the agency’s intent not to renew its grants with several advocacy organizations as part of an effort to break down some of the “compartmentalization” that now separates some of its grantees and to possibly draw down additional federal dollars.
Carpenter said he supported KDADS’ intent but had come to question the propriety of eliminating the grants without knowing what would take their place.
“To do away with these grants so abruptly without having studied the ramifications just didn’t seem like the way to go,” he said. “So with this proviso they can go ahead with the restructuring they want to do, we’ll leave NAMI at $150,000 and we’ll study it for a year to see if it’s a wise use of our money. At this point in time, I believe it is.”
Rick Cagan, who runs the NAMI office in Kansas, welcomed the committee’s support for the proviso.
“We’ve been working our members as hard as we can, getting them to contact their legislators,” he said. “The point has been made, I think, that in the scheme of things we’re talking about a small amount of money that leverages a lot of volunteers who, all across the state, are saving a lot of heartache for individuals, for family members and, ultimately, for the state of Kansas.”
The proviso did not provide funding for the other programs affected by the KDADS grant decision: Kansas Family Partnership, Families Together, Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas and Keys for Networking.
Collectively, the programs provide an array of services for emotionally disturbed children and people with mental illness, developmental disabilities or addiction issues.
Mary Ellen Conlee, a lobbyist who’s also president of the Keys for Networking governing board, said the provisos took her by surprise.
“We didn’t know this was coming,” Conlee said. “We hadn’t asked for a proviso because we were under the impression this would be dealt with during omnibus,” a reference to session-ending budget deliberations between the House and Senate.
“This is my fault,” she said. “I take responsibility for this.”
Headquartered in Topeka, Keys for Networking provides counseling throughout the state for families with children who have severe emotional disturbances.
The committee also shelved a plan for taking $3 million from the Parents as Teachers budget, most of which is funded with tobacco master settlement revenues, and replacing it with $3 million from state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant. The shift in funding would have made $3 million in tobacco monies available for a reading program aimed at elementary school-age students.
“We couldn’t do that with TANF so, essentially, we left Parents as Teachers with what they started out with,” Carpenter said.
Dave Ranney is a reporter for Heartland Health Monitor, a news collaboration focusing on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.