The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services this week announced the appointment of a 30-member committee to critique the state’s behavioral health system.
“We’re wanting to get an overview of the whole system, from the community mental health centers to the state hospitals,” said Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokesperson. “The Governor’s Mental Health Task Force identified some gaps in the system last year, and we’re wanting to fill those gaps.”
KDADS, de Rocha said, also plans to issue a formal “request for information” later this month, inviting the public to propose improvements to the system as well.
Whether that request for public comment and the new committee’s recommendations lead to additional funding being available, she said, remains to be seen.
“It’s good to see this group being assembled,” said Rick Cagan, executive director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Kansas. “As advocates, we’ve been talking about this for years because in Kansas, our continuum of care consists of community mental health centers and the state hospitals, and not much in between.”
In recent years, federal surveyors have cited the state hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie for being overcrowded and understaffed and for not doing enough to ensure proper medical care.
During the same period, community mental health centers have had millions of dollars cut from the budgets they use to offset the costs of caring for patients who uninsured.
Osawatomie State Hospital last month began admitting fewer patients in preparation for renovation work after the citations from federal officials. To remain eligible for federal funding, the hospital is undergoing more than $3 million in renovations. The project is set to begin later this month and be complete in about five months.
In Kansas, mental health patients are not admitted to either of the state hospitals unless they’ve been declared a danger to themselves or others and the mental health center in their community says their conditions are so severe they cannot the treated locally.
The first meeting of the Adult Continuum of Care Committee will be May 21. A time and location have yet to be announced.
“The first thing we have to do is deal with the very real issues surrounding Osawatomie State Hospital,” said Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Democrat from Kansas City and one of three legislators on the committee.
“Right now, Osawatomie (State Hospital) is really the only place in the eastern half of the state that’s designed for patients who are a danger to themselves or others,” she said. “That needs to be dealt with immediately. We need a continuum of care that goes beyond what we have now.”
The Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas last year presented Wolfe Moore with its Outstanding Public Official Award.
Others on the committee include:
- Randall Allen, executive director of the Kansas Association of Counties.
- Wes Cole, chairman of the Governor’s Behavioral Health Services Planning Council and a former interim superintendent at Osawatomie State Hospital.
- Amy Campbell, executive director of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.
- Randy Callstrom, executive director at Wyandot Center, the community mental health center in Kansas City.
- Bill Persinger, executive director at Mental Health Center of East Central Kansas, the community mental health center in Emporia.
- Beth Oswald, a mental health consumer.
- Dr. Vishal Adma, medical director at the KVC Hospital, a children’s psychiatric facility in Kansas City, and a member of the Kansas Psychiatric Society.
- Becky Gray, director of Housing and Community Development for Pittsburg.
- Margie Phelps, director of re-entry service at the Kansas Department of Corrections.
- Bill Cochran, a captain with the Topeka Police Department.
- Jeff Herrig, Jefferson County sheriff.
- John Worley, assistant superintendent at Osawatomie State Hospital.
- Doug Johnson, executive director at Mirror Inc., a substance abuse program with 12 locations in Kansas.
Each of the three managed care companies charged with administering KanCare, the state’s Medicare program, will have representatives on the committee.
The committee’s mission, de Rocha said, will include advising KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett on how best to replicate crisis-intervention services that Rainbow Services Inc. provides in Kansas City, Kan.
The committee also will be asked to figure out how many inpatient beds the system truly needs, de Rocha said.