ELLY GRIMM

    • Leader & Times

 

May continues to be a busy month for the Kelly Administration and last week saw some important work done.

Last Thursday, Gov. Laura Kelly announced her signing of House Bill 2551, the Omnibus Budget, which passed with bipartisan support. The budget increases funding to address water quantity and quality issues, invests in workforce development, and provides additional funding for essential services and critical mental health needs, according to a release from the State of Kansas.

“I am proud of the Legislature’s bipartisan work to ensure we continue to make investments into our state water plan fund, strengthen our workforce, and make progress in addressing Kansans’ mental health needs,” Gov. Kelly noted in the State of Kansas release. “This funding supports my administration’s work to address critical infrastructure needs, grow our economy, and make Kansas the best place in the country to live, work, and raise a family.”

The budget:

• Invests in the workforce pipeline: Provides $8.3 million in need-based financial aid and scholarships, strengthening Kansas’ workforce pipeline. This funding includes $2 million to be invested in students who are pursuing careers in nursing, $1.7 million for first-generation students and children of teachers and paraprofessionals, and more than $1 million for National Guard members pursuing a master's degree.

• Addresses water quality and quantity issues in Kansas: Increases investment in the state water plan fund by $10 million, in addition to the $35 million the governor previously allocated. This funding is critical to addressing Kansas’ water quality and quantity needs. The bill also increases funding to $16 million for projects that will strengthen the state’s infrastructure for drinking water and wastewater in small communities across Kansas. This comes after an announcement from November 2023 from the State Finance Council regarding the transfer of $15.8 million from the State Water Plan Fund to facilitate water projects that address quality and quantity issues and infrastructure needs.

“This funding allows us to start on critical, shovel-ready projects that help our farmers and rural communities drive long-term, sustainable solutions to our water crisis,” Gov. Kelly noted in a November 2023 release from the State of Kansas. “I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature and our community partners to ensure our water resources are available for future generations.”

• Makes critical investments in mental health services for students: An additional $4.5 million will be invested in the Mental Health Intervention Pilot to further expand students' access to behavioral health services. This increase will provide a total of over $18 million in the upcoming school year. With this funding, the Kelly administration has invested over $78 million in this program, resulting in over 6,000 students receiving services in 90 school districts annually.

This comes after an announcement in November 2023 regarding the launch of The Council of State Government’s (CSG) Justice Center’s Stepping Up Initiative in Kansas’ juvenile justice system to reduce the over-incarceration of Kansans with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The initiative provides Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) staff at juvenile justice system facilities with training and other technical assistance (TA) to identify youth who could benefit from behavioral health supports and services to avoid re-incarceration. Kansas was the first state in the country to launch the Stepping Up initiative in its juvenile justice system.

“Before I got into politics, I worked in a minimum-security prison for boys, where I saw firsthand the benefits of having access to mental health resources,” Gov. Kelly noted in a November 2023 State of Kansas release. “That’s why we are expanding the Stepping Up Initiative to our juvenile justice system, so that we are better able to identify and provide mental health and addiction supports to kids who could benefit from them. Helping young people get set up for successful futures will make our state safer and save us money down the road.”

• Builds capacity for mental health treatment in the South Central region: $26.5 million is being invested to build the new South Central Regional Psychiatric Hospital in Wichita. The South Central Regional Psychiatric Hospital will serve acute inpatient mental health patients. It will also be the location for adult forensic beds to alleviate jail overcrowding and shorten wait times on pending evaluations and treatment. The facility will expand access to additional in-patient mental health beds in the region and allow patients to remain closer to home and family while receiving care.

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