A House Committee working to create a plan for Missouri to expand and reform Medicaid spent much of its latest hearing talking about mental health.

Chairman Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) says the testimony of mental health professionals shows the state can save money if more people can be kept out of prison by increasing coverage for mental health and substance abuse.

“A lot of other states are now including mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment in Medicaid, and the reason for that is simple. It saves states a lot of money in their departments of corrections to make sure that people with mental illnesses are getting the treatment they need to not commit violent crimes.”

Representative Jeanne Kirkton (D-Webster Groves) wants to see more discussion of expanding managed care from the corridor along I-70.

“People that live along there are well-served, but what do you do out in rural areas where there are fewer providers? Is that going to be a workable solution.”

The Committee has five more hearings scheduled between October 29 and November 19. Kirkton hopes the committee will have a proposal drafted sooner rather than later.

“Certainly if we have one out by December 1 it will give people more time to study it and really dig into it. We can’t do anything about it until we get back in session but at least we’ll be ahead of the game. I think we’d like to see it before January because it takes a long time to get things through committee and through one chamber or the next.”

December 1 is the first day legislation can be filed for the 2014 session.