Advocates applaud bill expanding mental health, telehealth access

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 2:13 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Advocates say a new law means big things for rural health and mental health.

Gov. Laura Kelly held a ceremony Thursday at the Statehouse to mark the signing of House Bill 2208. The measure establishes certification for certified community behavioral health clinics, and authorizes licensed, out-of-state physicians with telemedicine waivers to provide telemedicine services in Kansas. It also creates a process for certain Kansas hospitals to get federal funding as rural emergency hospitals.

“As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the provisions in this legislation are more critical than ever. The virus significantly increased burdens on Kansas living with mental health conditions,” Kelly said.

Randy Callstrom, CEO of Wyandot Behavioral Health Network, said the expansion of community behavioral health clinics is significant.

“This really represents the biggest transformation of mental health since mental health reform in the early 1990s,” Callstrom said.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Health and Human Services Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr issued a joint statement, praising the work to create and pass the measure.

“Over 400,000 Kansans are battling a serious mental health illness. Thousands more are battling issues like depression and anxiety, especially following the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are our children, our mothers, our fathers, our neighbors and the veterans who have served our country. Mental health issues touch every community and most every family in our state,” Ryckman said.

“This move is expected to increase access to services, improve care, and keep individuals in need of services out of jail and emergency rooms,” Landwehr added.

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