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Sedgwick County Pushing For Regional Mental Health Facility

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Sedgwick County officials say they are ready to partner with the state to establish a new regional mental health facility in the county.

Assistant County Manager Tim Kaufman says county commissioners have already identified land for a possible location.

A state task force recommended developing regional mental health facilities to help address an inpatient bed shortage at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals.

Kaufman says patients would also benefit from receiving behavioral health services closer to home.

"There’s recognition that if you can deliver that level of care — that state hospital level care — more close to home for individuals, they are going recover more quickly and they’re going to reintegrate back in the community more quickly," Kaufman says.

Sedgwick County commissioners say developing a regional mental health facility is a high priority on their Legislative Platform for 2019.

They also support continued state funding for Comcare’s Community Crisis Center.

In 2017, the Kansas Legislature passed a budget that included a proviso directing the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to established an 11-member task force to review the mental health system in Kansas.

The task force identified 26 priority recommendations to improve the system, and is expected to present an implementation plan to the Kansas Legislature next month.

The task force recommends developing a regional model of mental health care to provide a more balanced system to address behavioral health needs in Kansas. Larned State Hospital’s catchment area covers about two-thirds of the state’s geographic area, including some communities hundreds of miles from Larned, which is in west-central Kansas.

The catchment area for Osawatomie State Hospital, in eastern Kansas, covers a smaller geographic area (36 counties) but a larger population.

Regional short-term, acute-care facilities that accept both voluntary and involuntary admissions would allow the two state hospitals to dedicate more beds to longer-term inpatients.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.