Governor Kelly, Law Enforcement Leaders Discuss How Expanding Medicaid Would Improve
Public Safety During Wichita Roundtable

WICHITA— Today, Governor Laura Kelly hosted a roundtable with law enforcement and mental health leaders at the Sedgwick County Jail about how expanding Medicaid would improve public safety. This is the sixth stop on the Governor’s Healthy Workers, Healthy Economy statewide tour, which has included visits to Winfield, Garden City, Pittsburg, Overland Park, and Salina. 

“Right now, Kansans experiencing mental health crises or struggling with addiction frequently end up in emergency rooms or jails because there is nowhere else for them to go. This creates enormous challenges and puts a huge strain on our emergency departments, courts, and law enforcement,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “That’s not to mention the undue burden on those who have mental illness, and who would otherwise benefit from treatment or other interventions. These people need health care, not handcuffs.” 

Governor Kelly shared how Medicaid expansion would strengthen public safety: 

  • Medicaid expansion has been associated with fewer arrests and reduced rates of rearrest. A reduction in arrests may lead to reduced spending at county jails in Kansas and reduced incarceration in the criminal justice system.
  • Medicaid expansion can save taxpayers money by allowing states to shift the cost of some inmates’ health care from the state corrections budget to Medicaid.
  • Medicaid expansion is associated with an increase in the use of opioid addiction therapies, which is crucial as Kansas fights the opioid epidemic.

By law, Kansas jails must cover the costs of health care for uninsured individuals, spending taxpayer dollars that would not be needed if more Kansans were insured through Medicaid.  

“Two years ago, a bill was introduced to allow for inmates’ Medicaid to be suspended and not turned off. The bill also allowed for more medical services and pharmaceutical payments to be paid on inmate medical bills,” said Sedgwick County Sherriff Jeffery Easter. “If this part of the expansion was to be passed, it would cut down the expenses for local taxpayers.” 

“Expanding Medicaid will increase access to preventive and early treatment options which will help patients before they reach crisis,” said Abbey Cotter, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Ascension Via Christi. “It will help to transform Kansas’s mental health and substance abuse treatment model to one that better serves those in most need of services.” 

“Medicaid expansion would play an instrumental role in increasing and streamlining the services mental health professionals provide to patients around the state,” said Mary Jones, President and CEO of The Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas. “Even more, the funds that come from expansion would support these clinics and reduce the costs of uncompensated care they often take on.” 

Kansans can call their state legislators and ask them to expand Medicaid at 800-432-3924. 

“Kansas’ inability to expand Medicaid has led to our tax state payer dollars being sent to other states to help their workers and health care,” said Kansas State Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick). “The money we’re paying in federal taxes should be staying in Kansas to support Kansans.” 

Roundtable participants included: 

  • Sedgwick County Sherriff Jeffery Easter 
  • Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Kansas Senate District 31) 
  • Commissioner Ryan Baty, Sedgwick County Board of County Commissioners 
  • Paul Duff, Deputy Chief, Wichita Police Department 
  • Mary Jones, President and CEO, Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas 
  • Jared Schechter, Jail Administrator, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office 
  • Abbey Cotter, Director of Behavioral Health Services, Ascension Via Christi 
  • Russell Leeds, Assistant County Manager of Public Safety, Code Enforcement, and Emergency Management 
  • Kevin Lanterman, Director of Emergency Medical Services, Sedgwick County 
  • Steve Stonehouse, Director, Sedgwick County Department of Corrections 

Photos from today’s event are available for media use below: