How Ky.'s pension crunch is hurting mental health centers -- and why they're stuck

02/13/2013 10:01 AM

For many agencies, their payments into the Kentucky Retirement System are an increasing drain on their budgets. And some of them want to escape from the system — but can’t.

Steve Shannon, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Mental Health/Mental Retardation Programs, told Pure Politics that the amount the centers have to pay into the retirement system has inflated their administrative costs so that now centers are having more problems getting grants. (see video below)

One of the centers, Kentucky River Community Care in Jackson, tried to leave the system and is now being sued by the Kentucky Retirement System for firing most of its staff and bringing workers from a private firm, as the Herald-Leader’s John Cheves reported last summer.

The retirement system argues that the employers that joined the system are in it together. And the law doesn’t allow them to leave, which Shannon said is a problem (4:00).

Shannon said a pension isn’t even the recruiting tool that it used to be.

“It was at one point a recruiting tool. The folks coming in now aren’t as interested in it. They don’t see themselves staying at a center for 20 or 25 years or so,” Shannon said. (2:00)

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said earlier this year in an interview with Pure Politics that he planned to file legislation to allow entities like mental health centers to leave the system. McDaniel said Wednesday he expected to file the bill by Friday’s deadline for new Senate bills.

Here’s a 3:24 clip of what else he said he wants to see done with the pension system, including an effort to make public pension amounts.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at or @mycn2 on Twitter.


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