Nixon, Barnes add voices to mental health rally

The Capitol Rotunda was filled Wednesday with supporters of Medicaid expansion who held a rally before breaking into smaller groups to visit legislators. At times, they would wave their signs and applaud when speakers made favorable comments. They heard from Gov. Jay Nixon and Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, talk about legislation regarding Medicaid.

The Capitol Rotunda was filled Wednesday with supporters of Medicaid expansion who held a rally before breaking into smaller groups to visit legislators. At times, they would wave their signs and applaud when speakers made favorable comments. They heard from Gov. Jay Nixon and Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, talk about legislation regarding Medicaid. Photo by Julie Smith.

Less than a day after a House budget committee voted to strip funding for Fulton State Hospital from the supplemental budget, Gov. Jay Nixon, lawmakers and Missourians rallied Wednesday at the Capitol for the expansion of mental health services in the state.

Nixon included $14 million in his 2014 supplemental budget proposal and planned to include $14 million in his 2015 budget proposal to pay for two years’ worth of bond payments for a new $198 million Fulton State Hospital facility.

He said the facility is “crumbling and in need of replacement.”

“The consensus is overwhelming that if we’re serious about protecting patients, caregivers and communities, we need to rebuild this dangerous facility, and we need to do it now,” Nixon said.

Later in the day, Nixon lashed out at House budget writers for not going along with his plan for constructing a new mental health facility at Fulton.

Nixon said Wednesday that he is “sick and tired” of inaction on the hospital and that its current conditions were a threat to patients and employees. Lawmakers say the funds weren’t needed in the current budget.

The governor also used the morning rally to promote Medicaid expansion, which he said would bring $2 billion a year back to the state.

He said about 50,000 of the 300,000 Missourians who would qualify for Medicaid through expansion need mental health services.

“Many are unable to afford coverage and go years without treatment,” he said.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, told the crowd they can help put a face on the state’s mental health needs.

“The people you’re advocating for aren’t just a statistic,” he said. “They’re real people with hope.”

During his two years in office, Barnes said he has worked to increase access to mental health services.

On Tuesday, Rep. Noel Torpey filed a Medicaid reform bill with Barnes as a co-sponsor. The bill would expand Medicaid eligibility requirements to 100 percent of the federal poverty level and provide assistance for people between 100 and 138 percent to buy plans on the exchange.

Barnes said the bill would increase Medicaid access to Missourians, and in the process, would increase access to mental health services.

“It ensures that every Missourian has access to mental health services if they need it,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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