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Federal officials approve KDADS plan at Osawatomie State Hospital

By Dave Ranney | December 05, 2014

A spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services on Friday announced that federal officials had approved the agency’s plan for improving conditions at Osawatomie State Hospital.

The decision means the hospital’s Medicare payments will remain intact after Monday.

Earlier, federal officials had threatened to block a significant portion of the payments if the hospital failed to correct several deficiencies cited during a late October survey.

Federal surveyors returned to the hospital this week.

“As a result of the re-survey earlier this week, our two immediate jeopardy deficiencies have been lifted,” Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokesperson, wrote in an email to KHI News Service.

KDADS is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on a "plan of correction" for other deficiencies related to census issues at the 206-bed hospital, de Rocha said. KDADS will have 90 days to implement that plan.

Though the federal survey and the state’s correction plan have yet to be made public, de Rocha last month said that a “fire watch” had been initiated to address concerns raised by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The two “immediate jeopardy” issues, she said, involved the hospital’s nursing and pharmacy procedures.

For the hospital to have been cited for “immediate jeopardy” means the surveyors had reason to believe that patients’ safety and well-being were at-risk.

Osawatomie State Hospital is the larger of the state’s two inpatient facilities for adults with serious mental illnesses who’ve been deemed a danger to themselves or others. The other state-run mental health hospital is in Larned.

In recent months, patient admissions to Osawatomie State Hospital have reached record and near-record levels, causing dozens of patients to be triple-bunked in rooms meant for two.

On Tuesday, KDADS announced it was suspending voluntary admissions due to “ongoing and critical census challenges” at the 206-bed state hospital.

In keeping with a memo sent to the state’s 26 community mental health centers, the suspension will be in effect whenever the hospital’s census exceeds 185 patients.

Last year, according to KDADS records, the hospital’s census was below 185 patients for one day.

Typically, most patients who are involuntarily admitted to the hospital have been involved in encounters with police and have been found to be a danger to themselves or others. These admissions, oftentimes, are court-ordered.

Federal officials’ decision to accept the KDADS correction plan did not surprise the state’s mental health advocates.

The Osawatomie and Larned hospitals, they said, have long been understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded.

“Our hope now is that the 2015 Legislature will be supportive of the community-based solutions that we know are needed to avoid running into this crisis time and time again,” said Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.

Patients who don't have access to crisis intervention services in their local communities are one reason why the Osawatomie hospital has been above census, she said.

“The current leadership at KDADS is actively pursuing solutions – more community-based crisis-intervention services, more (substance abuse) treatment beds, more housing options,” Campbell said. “They’re steps, but they’re baby steps. The department is headed in the right direction, it's just not moving fast enough.”

Rebecca Proctor, executive director at the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a labor union that represents many state hospital front-line workers, said her members were disappointed by the decision.

“Conditions there are not good for the residents and for people who work there,” Proctor said. “I can tell you this: If somebody who never worked in a state-hospital environment went to work at Osawatomie (State Hospital), they would very quickly come to the conclusion that conditions there are unacceptable.”

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