Kansas Official To Outline Privatization Plan For Osawatomie State Hospital

Aug 14, 2017

One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.

Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.

On Tuesday Keck will outline a privatization plan submitted by a Tennessee-based company to stakeholders and legislators during a 1 p.m. meeting at the hospital’s administration building.

It will be the first of several “community presentations” Keck is planning with stakeholders in communities in the hospital’s catchment area, which encompasses more than 40 counties.

Keck told members of the Legislative Budget Committee earlier this month that he wants to have “a plan to build a new facility” ready for lawmakers to consider when the 2018 session convenes in January.

“I think this is going to be a big year to have a lot of questions answered surrounding Osawatomie and rebuilding it,” he said.

Privatization remains controversial, however. Correct Care Solutions, the only company that bid on the Osawatomie State Hospital project, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida. 

Lawmakers opposed to privatizing Osawatomie State Hospital added a provision to the agency’s budget that requires it to also solicit proposals for a new state-funded facility.

Certification still an issue

Operational issues that compromised the safety of patients and staff prompted federal officials to decertify Osawatomie State Hospital in December 2015, an order that has since cost the state approximately $1 million a month in federal Medicare funding.  

Despite costly renovations and efforts to address staffing and operational deficiencies, federal officials refused to recertify the hospital after their most recent inspection in May, citing new concerns about sanitation, food preparation and infection control. 

The agency has corrected those problems and the hospital is ready for another inspection, Keck told members of the budget committee.

“We’re expecting them back any day,” he said. “We feel like we’re ready to go.”

Several members of the committee expressed frustration that recertification is taking so long.

“I had hoped we’d be further along in this process,” said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.