mental health

Rebecca Lyn Phillips, of Topeka, has schizophrenia and writes a blog about the challenges of living with the disorder. She says the prospect of step therapy is 'terrifying' to many people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Although every state has now adopted some form of “step therapy” to control prescription drug costs, patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain deeply distrustful of the policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Also known as “fail first,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

Claiming patients who experience psychosis have a chemical imbalance is an easy and incomplete explanation to a complicated problem. Treating patients with medication doesn't work for everyone, but other options do exist. Some are finding hope and better quality of life with a more holistic approach.

Guests:

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

While the Kansas Legislature’s final budget bill did increase spending on mental health hospitals by $17 million, more than two-thirds of that funding will be used to maintain the status quo.

That’s because $11.7 million — or 69 percent of the $17 million in extra funds the Legislature appropriated early Monday in Senate Bill 249  — will be used to replace federal funding the state hospitals lost or pay contract facilities to assist when Osawatomie State Hospital is at capacity.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Federal officials have reversed position on a long-standing ban on paying for some inpatient psychiatric care, giving a possible boost to Kansas crisis centers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a proposed rule Monday that will place new requirements on managed care organizations administering Medicaid, such as the three insurance companies that operate KanCare, the state’s privatized $3 billion program.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Two employees of Larned State Hospital made rare public comments Monday about difficult working conditions at the mental health facility.

Kyle Nuckolls and Lynette Lewis described for a legislative committee the toll that mandatory overtime and limited time between shifts is taking on workers at the short-staffed facility and their families.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Lewis, a pharmacy technician who has worked at Larned for 18 years.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

A health care consultant who lists experience with hospital turnarounds will take over the top job at Larned State Hospital for the next six months.

Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, announced Wednesday that he had appointed Chris Mattingly to serve as interim superintendent.

Tom Kinlen, who had been Larned’s superintendent since 2012, resigned in March, and Bill Rein, who is KDADS commissioner of behavioral health services, served in an interim capacity until Mattingly was appointed this week.

Newman Regional Health

Newman Regional Health will continue to receive Medicare payments after federal officials determined staff at the Emporia hospital had addressed their concerns about policies for patients with mental health issues.

A news release from the hospital Tuesday announced the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determined Newman had complied with its requirements. In March, CMS had raised the possibility of stopping Medicare payments after a psychiatric patient was discharged too soon in September 2015.

Tammy Worth / Heartland Health Monitor

On Megan Younger’s third day on the job, she accompanied police officers to the home of a woman whose family hadn’t heard from her in days. The woman was found in the bathtub – where she had been for three days – and had chemically burned off all of her hair.

She was psychotic and delusional, but she was otherwise healthy and her lawn was mowed, her house clean and her pets well-groomed. After talking with her for a while, Younger determined the woman wasn’t suicidal or harmful to others. She was left at home where a mobile crisis team checked on her the next day.

File photo

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates Medicaid expansion would help 34,000 uninsured Kansans with mental illness or substance use disorders gain access to behavioral health services.

The figure represents the number of Kansans with behavioral disorders whose incomes would have qualified them for Medicaid — had the state expanded its privatized program known as KanCare — in 2014. That’s the most recent year for which figures are available.

Joseph Scozzari / Wikimedia--CC

Federal officials may halt Medicare funding to an Emporia hospital because a mental health patient was discharged too soon — an incident that hospital officials say resulted in part from a lack of mental health beds in Kansas.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted a follow-up visit March 10 at Newman Regional Health to determine if it had corrected the lapse in procedure that led to a patient being improperly discharged in September. CMS has not made results of the follow-up visit public.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

If he had a magic wand, Bill Persinger would turn back the clock to May 2009.

Failing that, however, he would increase resources for crisis care and substance abuse treatment, said Persinger, who is CEO of Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Federal officials found fault with the way Kansas had screened people for admission to psychiatric hospitals, but left the door open for the state to divert patients if it reforms its screening procedure.

A look at the Veterans Treatment Court programs in both Jackson County, Missouri and Johnson County, Kansas. 

Guests:

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Hit by recent cuts in state mental health programs, Wyandot Inc., an umbrella organization for four nonprofit agencies in Kansas City, Kansas, has eliminated 26 positions.

Six of the positions were vacant and won’t be filled and six other employees accepted transfers to other positions in the organization, leaving a total of 14 who lost their jobs.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt toured the Metro YMCA Head Start in Kansas City, Missouri, Monday to learn more about a program that helps kids deal with trauma.

“Here’s a case where you’re investing early and trying to figure out what you can do to intervene in the life of a child that has some traumatic experience,” Blunt said after sitting in on a lesson at the Crittenton Children’s Center.

The teacher used baby dolls to show the 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds how to care for someone else.

Becoming pregnant and giving birth is a joyous time for many women. And yet, many suffer from serious depression during pregnancy and after birth. Now, the federal government is recommending that pregnant women and new mothers get screened for depression.

Guests:

  • Kim Vandegeest-Wallace is a psychologist and sex therapist with the Women’s Specialty Clinic at KU Med.
  • Jane McKinney a licensed social worker with the Lakewood Counseling Service.

We know the violent tragedies by the cities where they happened — San Bernardino, Paris, Newtown. Seeing the casualties and the details of what happened can be difficult for anyone to deal with them. But how do you explain these events and what they mean to a child?

Guests:

  • Amy Nine is a social worker at Comanche Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission School District.
  • Dr. Rochelle Harris is a clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The state will try to get Osawatomie State Hospital back into Medicare’s good graces within the next six months, officials told a joint legislative committee Thursday.

Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the department will pursue recertification for Osawatomie, ending several weeks of speculation.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in December that it would halt Medicare payments to Osawatomie due to security issues that had come to light after the reported rape of an employee by a patient.

File photo

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas won’t require customers who need outpatient mental health services to get prior authorization from now on, but the insurer can recoup payments from providers if their treatment is significantly different from that of their peers.

Heartland Health Montior file photo

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles previewing health-related issues that the Kansas Legislature will face in its upcoming 2016 session.

Kansas mental health advocates will enter the 2016 session at a critical juncture, 25 years into the state’s effort to move away from institutionalization to community-based care.

File photo

The reported rape of an employee at Osawatomie State Hospital in October exposed security concerns that federal officials cited when they decided last week to stop sending Medicare payments to the facility after Monday.

Osawatomie had submitted a correction plan for the security issues to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but federal inspectors who visited the hospital Dec. 15 and Friday to follow up decided to proceed with cutting payments, said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

White, middle-aged Americans' death rates are on the rise, in Kansas City and beyond. How suicide, alcohol and drugs are contributing to the problem. Plus, gaps in mental healthcare services in and around Kansas City.

For immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. 

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Walk into the courtroom of Wyandotte County District Judge Kathleen M. Lynch and you may be surprised to find lawyers who aren’t asked to stand up and a judge who prefers street dress to a judge’s robes. Lynch’s docket includes lots of cases involving mental illness or substance abuse and offenders needing institutional treatment. She’s become a big advocate for more social services in the area and for courtrooms more sensitive to people who have experienced trauma.

Kevin Briggs saved hundreds of people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco while he served as a California Highway Patrol Officer.  Kevin Hines was 19 years old when he jumped off the same bridge. Now both men speak about suicide prevention.

Kevin Briggs will be signing his book,  'Guardian of the Golden Gate: Protecting the Line Between Hope and Despair' at 7 p.m. Friday, October 16 at Barnes & Noble Zona Rosa. 

Maria Carter / KCUR

A 72-bed, private behavioral health hospital opens its doors this week in Olathe amid growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services in an era of uncertain government support.  

Cottonwood Springs Hospital is the 12th behavioral health hospital built or under construction by Springstone Inc., a for-profit company founded in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2010 and backed by venture capital.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Several advocates for people with mental illness on Wednesday panned a proposal that would allow treatment facilities to hold people in crisis situations for up to 72 hours as involuntary patients.

“This is a deprivation of liberty,” Mike Burgess, a spokesperson with the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said during a meeting of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.

It would be better, he said, to expand access to voluntary treatment.

Esther Honig

This summer, more than 200 teams from around the world competed in KCRW's third International Radio Race. Participants were given the theme "Time Change" and 24 hours to produce a short radio story.

An advisory committee charged with helping state officials design a system for regulating the use of prescription mental health drugs for Medicaid patients met for the first time Tuesday.

“This is going to be an evolving process,” said Dr. Vishal Adma, a committee member and president of the Kansas Psychiatric Society.

State officials have decided to ask members of a committee charged with critiquing the state’s behavioral health system to continue meeting.

“We don’t want this to be a group that makes recommendations and stops,” said Doug Wallace, housing and homeless specialist at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. “We want this to be an action-oriented group.”

Courtesy photo

David Wiebe, one of the best known advocates for people with mental illness in Kansas, died Monday in Fairway at age 76. He had cancer.

“If you step back and look at how, over the decades, Kansas’ mental health system was developed, created and formed to where it is now, you’ll see that he was one of the pioneers,” says Tim DeWeese, executive director at the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

“His service to both the mental health field and to mental health consumers was invaluable,” DeWeese says.

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