Will funding for 400 more behavioral health spots be enough to end the waiting lists?

02/10/2014 05:39 PM

Adding more than $14 million to allow 400 more Kentuckians with intellectual or developmental disabilities to avoid institutions won’t eliminate waiting lists, a health cabinet official said Monday.

But it’s a start, said Dr. Allen Brenzel, clinical director for the Department for Behavioral Health Development and Intellectual Disabilities.

Gov. Steve Beshear proposed spending $4.7 million in 2015 and $9.4 million in 2016 to pay for 400 additional slots in the Supports for Community Living program. That’s part of the $462.3 million proposed budget for the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities in the state’s health cabinet.

The Supports for Community Living program, through the Kentucky Medicaid program, was developed as an alternative to allow Kentuckians with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be cared for at home or in community settings as opposed to a state institution.

On Monday, Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, chairman of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources, asked Brenzel if 400 additional slots over the next biennium will be enough to eliminate waiting lists which have grown to as many as 212 in the past.

“We’ve made substantial progress and we’re all very proud that progress and we feel real fortunate for the resources that have been devoted but we have more work to do. 200 slots is a continued investment, but, obviously, it’s going to take continued investment and potentially substantially more investment over the long haul to get our waiting list down to safe levels,” Brenzel said.

Of the health cabinet’s budget, $264.5 million would be dedicated to residential services, according to Beshear’s budget proposal.

The budget also includes $19.6 million each year to fully fund the additional retirement contribution of the Community Health Centers currently participating in the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, which doesn’t count Seven Counties Mental Health Services, which has gone to bankruptcy court to try to get out of the retirement system.

In addition, 40 percent of the 1,100 employees in the behavioral health department will receive a 5 percent raise under Beshear’s proposal. He wants a tiered raise in which those making less than $27,000 would be in line for that highest raise level. Those making between $27,001 and $36,000 would get a 3 percent raise. About a quarter of the agency’s employees fall in that bracket.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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