Though treatment for gambling addiction is paid by a portion of a tax on casino revenues, fewer than 19 out of 20 southwestern Kansans are not aware of the program, according to an analysis of a state-wide gambling survey.

All but 4 percent of adult respondents to the survey in the southwest "thought the average person could not afford problem gambling treatment" or did not know, the analysis reported. Almost three-quarters of respondents in the rest of Kansas had the same impression.

Contrarily, southwest Kansans were 15 percent more likely to have heard of the Problem Gambling Helpline than the rest of the state, at 62 percent compared to 47 percent. The phone number, 800-522-4700, connects problem gamblers and those affected by others' addictive gambling to mental health providers. Treatment is paid by the tax fund, which collects 2 percent of the casinos' revenues.

Last Friday, the program started paying stipends for gas to treatment-seekers that travel more than 26 miles one-way to reach a clinician to make the services more attainable to rural residents.

Despite greater knowledge of the helpline, Kansans in the southwest region are about half as likely to say they would contact the helpline if they thought they had a gambling problem, and are about 11 percent less likely to think treatment works.

Information compiled by ValueOptions, the mental healthcare provider contracted to provide gambling addiction treatment for the state, indicates the therapy is significantly beneficial.

Among the healthcare provider's findings:

Clients who completed the program were over seven times less likely to have gambled in the 30 days prior to discharge compared to enrollees at intake.Fifty percent of clients enrolled in the self-exclusion program in which gamblers ask to be banned from the state-owned casinos.Clients were also about 11 times less likely to say their gambling had gotten them in trouble in the past 30 days.At discharge, clients were almost seven times less likely to say they were pre-occupied with urges to gamble.The statistics compiled by the healthcare provider necessarily exclude those that did not seek treatment with the organization.

The state-wide survey was commissioned contacted 400 residents in each of the three "gaming zones" that host a state-owned casino. It also contacted 400 residents outside the zones. The survey analysis was conducted by Western Kansas Statistical Lab out of Garden City and commissioned by the Southwest Kansas Problem Gaming Task Force.

The goals of the southwest Kansas task force this year include establishing relationships with employers to help them identify the warning signs of gambling addiction so employees can get help before it causes further damage. It also seeks to increase the number of local clinicians that can counsel addicted gamblers and their families.

The group, made up of representatives from state and local government and non-profit agencies will also continue compiling district-specific data from the state-wide survey and other sources, despite the state funding half the requested amount for this work.

The group believes the demographics of west Kansas may require different types of outreach compared to the whiter, more-affluent and more-urban east. This year, the task force will receive a little more than $16,000 of the $35,000 requested from the grant fund.

The Problem Gambling and Addiction Trust Fund, which will raise about $7.7 million this fiscal year, will spend about $1.2 million on gambling addiction issues. The majority of the fund, about $5.8 million, has been earmarked for other addiction treatment programs. A minor portion, about $700,000, will go toward other social issues including domestic abuse intervention.