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Murder Charges Raise Questions About State Of Kansas Mental Health System

Phil Cauthon
KHI News Service/File photo

Thirty-year-old Brandon Brown was released from the Osawatomie State Hospital on May 14. Three days later, he allegedly attacked a fellow patient at the Haviland Care Center, a nursing facility that specializes in caring for adults with mental illness.

The victim, 61-year-old Jerry Martinez, recently died. And Brown has been charged with second degree murder. The incident has prompted new questions about staffing and budget issues at the state’s two hospitals for the mentally ill.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that nearly 40 percent of the positions at the Osawatomie State Hospital were recently vacant. And in the past couple of weeks, state officials have been forced to freeze admissions to the hospital while renovations are being completed. The work is being done in large part to address issues raised by federal inspectors.

Advocates say the state’s mental health system is “at the breaking point” due to years of underfunding. They're also worried that the $50 million in spending cuts that Gov. Sam Brownback must still make to balance the budget could include further reductions for the hospitals.