Capitol Update: Rep. Ruiz says Medicaid expansion crucial to healthcare access for vulnerable populations

Freshman Rep. Susan Ruiz.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Rep. Susan Ruiz and Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Ruiz’s filing:

The 2018 midterm elections paved the way for a diverse lineup of enthusiastic, concerned, and highly qualified representatives. These people are teachers, mothers, and like me, people in social services who believe that more can be done. As part of that group of new voices in the 2019 session, I’d like you to get to know me, the issues that I’m focusing on, and my vision for Kansas.

I grew up in Texas and was the daughter of an immigrant from Mexico who became a citizen and proudly exercised his right to vote. He never missed an election, and he always took me with him. Even though he had to save money to pay a poll tax, it never deterred him and this made an impression in my siblings and me. Election day was never “just another day” for us and that was a set of values that I brought with me when I moved to Kansas in 1993 and ultimately became a driving force in my campaign.

I’ve been a clinical social worker for more than 25 years, focusing on helping adults with severe mental illness. I have also helped with establishing services for children with emotional disturbances. Understanding what it takes to provide the right level of services for children and adults is beneficial knowledge that I bring to my work within the committees: Children & Seniors, Veterans, and Social Services Budget.

This legislative session, we have the opportunity to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid will be of primary importance because of the immediate positive impact it will have on the child welfare system, seniors, veterans, and rural communities. The impact of the lack of healthcare in rural communities has been devastating. The closing of hospitals, medical clinics and the departure of physicians from these rural communities places everyone at risk. There are reportedly 30 percent of our state hospitals financially vulnerable and at risk of total closure. The failure to act on this expansion has already cost Kansas over $3 billion in federal funding.

Medicaid expansion will also have an immediate impact on the Community of Mental Health Centers and will afford them to ability to provide services to many more children, families and adults. The failure of providing treatment to these vulnerable populations places a strain on state hospitals, emergency rooms and jails. It is ultimately more expensive to provide these services outside of the community mental health system.

I look forward to come together with my colleagues to work on this issue, and pave a better future for Kansas. I will always welcome your thoughts and ideas and ways I can represent you in Topeka. I invite you to reach out to me via Facebook, Twitter, or via my website. Let’s do this!