What is Community Mental Health? 

Under Kansas Statutes Annotated (KSA) 19-4001 et. seq., and KSA 65-211 et. seq., 26 licensed Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) currently operate in the state.  These Centers have a combined staff of over 4,000 providing mental health services in every county of the state in over 120 locations.  Together they form an integral part of the total mental health system in Kansas.  The independent, locally owned centers are dedicated to fostering a quality, free standing system of treatment and programs for the benefit of citizens needing mental health care and treatment.

Each of the 26 licensed CMHCs operating in Kansas have a separate duly elected and/or appointed board of directors.  Each of these boards is accountable to the citizens served, its county officials, the state legislature, and the governor; and all have reporting responsibilities to the national level of government.

Community Mental Health Centers are more than just another group of providers.  They are the county’s legally delegated authorities to manage mental health care in Kansas.  These Centers function as the local mental health authorities.  As such, the Kansas mental health system is a relationship of shared governance between two governmental entities, the state and the counties.

First and foremost, CMHCs, through their County Commission authorized boards, are accountable to the public mental health interest.  Outcome performance measures have been specifically delineated in contracts with the State of Kansas since Mental Health Reform was commenced.

The CMHCs operate under extensive state licensing regulations; are subject to licensure site reviews; and provide extensive required data routinely to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS).  The CMHCs also conform to Medicaid and Medicare standards and audits.

As publicly structured mental health authorities, CMHCs look to the state to provide critical leadership functions which allow the centers to fulfill their public responsibility. The Centers are not only a part of the Kansas public mental health system but are the major system that provides the majority of mental health treatment in the state.  The Centers are also aware that actions of local government, state government, the federal government, and other agencies, private and public, affect the future delivery of mental health services in the state of Kansas.

The primary goal of CMHCs is to provide quality care, treatment and rehabilitation to individuals with mental health problems in the least restrictive environment.  The Centers provide services to all those needing it, regardless of economic level, age or type of illness.  The Centers strongly endorse treatment at the community level, in order to allow individuals to continue functioning in their own homes and communities, at a considerably reduced cost to them, third-party payers, and/or the taxpayer.

Community Mental Health Centers were originally established to improve access to preventative short-term treatment and care.  They have dramatically shifted since Mental Health Reform toward more costly, public long-term treatment and care.  As a result of this rather dramatic shift in funding, some of the prevention and early intervention programs have been reduced.

Kansas CMHCs provide care to over 100,000 citizens per year.  Patient loads have doubled over the past ten years largely as a result of deinstitutionalization.  During the period from 1970 to 1997, the State Hospital average daily census declined by more than eighty percent.  Many of these former hospital patients now rely on CMHCs for mental health treatment to maintain their ability to live in their own community.

In Kansas, more than 97 percent of all citizens seeking public mental health care are seen at CMHCs.

The major national and state trend in mental health care over the last fifteen to twenty years has been the shift from institutional care to community based care.  An estimated 18,000 are seriously emotionally disturbed children that are being served in the community, and over 18,000 are severe and persistently mentally ill adults.  Growth of these types of services in the community has been dramatic.  Without CMHCs, these seriously mentally ill adults and children would be confined to a hospital.