Governor's mental health initiative taking shape

Five regional hubs named with plans to be drawn for December implementation, KDADS official says

0 | Agencies, Health Care Delivery, Mental Health

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KHI News Service

Angela Hagen, director of mental health for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

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— A state official today named the five community mental health centers chosen to help carry out a reform initiative proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback in an effort to reduce the number of people sent to state mental hospitals or jails.

The centers are:

  • The Wyandot Center in Kansas City;
  • The Area Mental Health Center in Garden City;
  • The South Central Kansas Mental Health Counseling Center in El Dorado;
  • Four County Mental Health Center in Independence; and
  • Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka.

“We expect to be having lots of conversations with these centers,” said Angela Hagen, director of mental health for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Hagen spoke today at a meeting of the Mental Health Coalition of Kansas.

In keeping with the governor’s initiative, each of the centers has agreed to assess the mental health needs in a multi-county region and share the findings with KDADS and a state advisory committee. The centers also have agreed to develop region-specific plans for reaching patients thought to be most at-risk of hospitalization or incarceration, Hagen said.

The plans are expected to vary from region to region.

The five centers will be called regional recovery support centers.

The regional assessments are due Aug. 15, she said, and the plans should be ready to implement by December.

“That’s a very short timeframe,” Hagen said.

The members of the advisory committee will be announced probably next week.

“We still have a few individuals yet to be reached out to,” she said. “Once the list is finalized, it will be announced more broadly.”

A tentative list of the committee members already has been posted on a KDADS-administered website: www.bhsupdates.org. It will be separate from the Governor’s Mental Health Planning Council.

Brownback announced his initiative shortly after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., saying he wanted to "better provide mental health services to the state's most at-risk and challenging populations" and create a "panel of experts to re-evaluate Kansas' current mental health system and make recommendations for improvements."

It’s still unclear how the services proposed by the five mental health centers might differ from those already being provided.

“We’re glad that the governor’s initiative is moving forward,” said Amy Campbell, executive director of the mental health coalition. “But all I can say at this point is that it’ll be interesting to see how it all comes together.”

JoLana Pinon, a member of the coalition’s governing board, said she doubted the plans would be ready for implementation by December.

“The assessments haven’t started yet and the advisory committee’s members haven’t been finalized,” she said. “I’m supportive, but I don’t see how it can all come together by December.”

Pinon is chief executive at Florence Crittenton Services in Topeka, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for girls.

“It seems like this is something the state really wants to do, but they want the mental health centers to lead the way,” Pinon said. “That’s a little unusual.”

Hagen also announced that KDADS was putting together a formal ‘request for information’ (RFI) on a possible reconfiguration of the state’s Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City.

“We want to see what (alternate services) our community partners are willing or ready to provide,” she said.

Fourteen of the facility’s 50 beds were closed in February 2011 after federal surveyors cited the hospital for being understaffed. Seven months later, 30 of the remaining 36 beds were closed after the State Fire Marshal found safety violations.

The six beds still at Rainbow have been converted to a crisis stabilization unit.

KDADS, Hagen said, was open to hearing proposals for remodeling the facility, privatizing its operations, or converting the beds to other uses.

The RFI, she said, should be issued within two weeks.



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