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More Beds, Staff Among Top Priorities In New Report From Kansas Mental Health Task Force

Phil Cauthon
KHI News Service/File photo
Osawatomie State Hospital has been under a moratorium on admissions since June 2015.

A task force created by the Kansas Legislature recommends adding inpatient psychiatric beds immediately to help solve the ongoing crisis in the state’s behavioral health system.

That’s one of 23 recommendations in a new report presented to the state Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

The Mental Health Task Force says adding 36 to 60 regional or state hospital beds within two years will improve the state’s ability to deliver mental health services. Overall, the plan calls for the state to add up to 221 new regional or state hospital beds over five years.

Amy Campbell, a lobbyist/coordinator for the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, is one 13 legislatively appointed members on the task force. She told lawmakers the additional inpatient capacity will also take the pressure off other systems like local jails and hospital emergency rooms.

“We still have a moratorium on admissions at Osawatomie State Hospital," she said, "which means when an individual coming in at a psychiatric crisis is often put on a waiting list before they can access a state hospital bed.”

The report says as of December 2018, Kansas had 256 beds in Osawatomie and Larned State Hospital, 120 beds in three free-standing psychiatric hospitals and 200 beds in seven adult psychiatric units in general acute care hospitals. The supply falls below the projected statewide inpatient bed demand.

Campbell says investing in the state psychiatric hospitals and improving staffing will help stabilize the system and bring an end to the nearly four-year-old moratorium.

The task force continues to support developing a regional model to provide access to mental health services closer to home for more patients.

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.

The Legislature established the Mental Health Task Force in 2017 to address the behavioral health system crisis in Kansas. This is the second report from the task force. It builds on recommendations issued in 2018 and provides a strategic plan for implementation.

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

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.