National Alliance on Mental Illness

Dave Ranney, Heartland Health Monitor

When the 2015 legislative session started in January, public health advocates had reason to be optimistic they could reach some of their most ambitious goals.

The Kansas Hospital Association was ramping up efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to about 100,000 uninsured Kansans with the political implications of the 2014 election over.

Newly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed to almost triple the state cigarette tax — a prospect that won quick support from groups that fight cancer and heart disease.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says gaps in mental health care could be addressed if every state-including Kansas-would expand Medicaid as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act.

Rick Cagan, who heads NAMI Kansas, says the state’s system of community mental health centers is supposed to provide help for Kansans with mental illness, regardless of their ability to pay. But budget cuts have left public mental health providers unable to meet the needs…