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November 16, 2021

ROI in Rural America: Increasing Kansans’ Access to Care

Through technical assistance, Kansas organizations received nearly $15 million in federal grants

Nearly one in three Kansans live in rural and frontier communities. These communities face unique healthcare challenges, such as accessibility, lack of providers, and an aging population.

The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (Health Fund) supports innovative, collaborative initiatives for the health and wholeness of all Kansans. Access to care plays a critical role in supporting Kansans’ health and strong communities. Particularly in rural areas where the population is growing older and sparser, providers are looking for ways to stay financially viable and provide quality integrated care for the people they serve.

The Health Fund works to ensure program sustainability beyond its initial investment, which can include supporting efforts to bring in outside grant dollars. In 2021, the Health Fund provided technical assistance to bring millions of federal grant dollars back to Kansas to support health initiatives. Kansas ranks 46 in drawing down federal funds, in part due to missed grant opportunities.

“We’re a small health foundation that invests in projects across Kansas to sustainably increase access to care,” said David Jordan, president and CEO of the Health Fund. “Each year we give out $2 million in grants. Those dollars only go so far. By leveraging some of our dollars, we can invest thousands in order to bring back millions to our state. This year we provided technical assistance to organizations who were applying for federal grants, which helped bring $15 million to Kansas.”

Thanks in part to technical assistance, four organizations received millions in federal grant dollars that will increase Kansans’ access to health insurance and mental health services:

  • Thrive Allen County, $2.9 million grant from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • SAMHSA Community Mental Health Center grant awards to:
    • Spring River Mental Health & Wellness, Inc. in Riverton, $1.9 million
    • Pawnee Mental Health Services in Manhattan, $4.75 million
    • Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center in Humboldt, $4.99 million

For the next three years, Thrive Allen County will use its award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help underserved populations find affordable health insurance. Thrive utilizes Navigators, individuals who are federally trained and certified to help consumers find and apply for Marketplace coverage. The grant will support the recruitment, training and activities of 18 Navigators who will serve 42 counties and ten agencies across the state. Thrive’s past work in enrollment assistance helped lower Allen County’s uninsured rate from 21% in 2013 to less than 9% in 2018.

“This is a grant after my own heart,” said Lisse Regehr, Thrive Allen County president and CEO. “I joined Thrive in 2014 as a Navigator and saw firsthand the life changing effects it has on individuals, families and communities. The impact Navigators have on healthcare access cannot be understated, and we are honored to help community organizations implement what we have learned across the state.”

Three mental health centers across Kansas received Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) grant awards. CMHCs provide prevention, treatment and rehabilitation mental health services. The grant dollars are intended to increase access to mental health and behavioral support.

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