Mental health issues have been a major problem in the world and in the United States for as long as we can remember. People are constantly in need and only in the last few years have we seen these conditions even garner any recognition at all. However small the steps in the right direction might be, they are needed for a big step in the future. Kansas state lawmakers may have just figured out a way to take that big step in the right direction for mental health awareness and treatment and it via something you probably didn’t expect. Gambling.

Representative Chuck Webber recently introduced legislation that would permit the Kansas lottery to operate through vending machines located in social hubs throughout the state. The expected revenue that would result by allowing these lottery vending machines to operate will go directly to crisis stabilization centers. These centers are specifically created to accommodate people who have had a psychotic break without sending them through more mental trauma by jailing or hospitalizing them. They will also be helping to fund mental health clubhouses which provide voluntary support for people who have had long standing mental health issues that have gone unresolved throughout their lives. The expected revenues are reported to be in access of 12 million dollars over the course of two years.

“I saw this as sort of a win-win, something that can be seen as ‘voluntary’ funding because no one forces anyone to buy a lottery ticket,” said Rep. Webber. “I was trying to think creatively about how we can provide a crucial service without burdening the taxpayer and raising taxes.” The representative found his solution and attached it to the lottery vending machine bill that has passed in the state house and is moving toward a committee who will further approve it for this year’s budget.

Lottery vending machines are not a new idea. For years, the lottery proponents have been pushing for the legalization of the vending machines to up the tax revenues that the state will see. This struggle over the years has produced some “on-the-fence” feelings about lottery vending machines over time and Rep. Chuck Webber hopes to grab those votes via the new funding for mental health application. Lottery ticket vending machines are not a far cry from purchasing lottery tickets online, which would be the next progressive step for the state to take, though nobody has made mention of the possibility in any type of official capacity.

Kyle Kessler is the executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas inc., who has noted the $30 million-dollar loss in the state’s budget for mental health programs since the recession in the past 8 years. He commented, “I’m not a big gambling guy, but if we’re going to expand access, then maybe this is a way to turn something I’m not terribly excited about and turn it into a positive.”

There are an estimated 300-400 small to medium sized businesses have made themselves available for lottery vending machines adding to the support that the bill is currently seeing. Opponents of the bill are still arguing that minors could have access to the lottery tickets or that the ease of access could further instigate the compulsion to gamble by gambling addicts, which is a mental disorder in it of itself. Despite the opposition, the community remains hopeful for the new funding that they might receive for mental health services.