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mental health

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

As communities across Kansas struggle to accommodate an influx of people with mental illness in their criminal justice systems, religious leaders are calling for a new approach in Lawrence.

A group called Justice Matters, which represents 23 congregations, released a report this week called “Restorative Justice at Home.” The report contains several recommendations to beef up Douglas County’s mental health treatment options as an alternative to a proposed expansion of the county jail.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of a new mental health crisis center in Kansas City hailed the facility as a model for the rest of the state — and beyond — during its ceremonial opening this afternoon.

“Other communities in Missouri are going to have their eyes on this project because they want to emulate it,” said Mike Nietzel, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH).

Nietzel was one of many speakers who took to the podium outside the new Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center, at 12th Street and Prospect Avenue.

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At first, the man appears drunk.

He’s walking along an on-ramp from Lackman Road onto I-435 in Lenexa, Kansas. At 1 p.m., traffic is heavy.

The man doesn’t react well when a police officer arrives.

“He takes a few swings at the officer. They’re obviously not Mike Tyson swings, but they’re swings nonetheless, where if something happened right there it could very easily spill over from the shoulder onto the highway where somebody would really get hurt,” Lenexa police Capt. Wade Borchers said, recounting an incident from earlier this year that involved another officer.

Courtesy Glore Psychiatric Museum

When Missouri’s second mental hospital opened in the late 19th century, State Lunatic Asylum No. 2 in St. Joseph was designed to provide lots of natural light and fresh air.

Yet as war and economic calamity frayed the nation’s psyche, over-crowding swamped the hospital’s lofty goals. The census of the St. Joseph facility peaked at around 3,000 patients in the 1950s — more than 10 times its intended capacity.

File photo

Judy Talbot is trying to get her daughter out of a state facility for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Zack Zbeeb is trying to get his son into one.

But both ultimately have the same goal: to do a “medication washout” to determine whether the prescription drugs their autistic kids take are helping to control their recent dangerous psychotic episodes or actually causing them.

Zbeeb, from Wichita, wants his 15-year-old son to be weaned off his medications at a place like Parsons State Hospital and Training Center.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

In a small, windowless room at the University of Kansas Child and Family Services Clinic, Julie Boydston put on a few sock puppets and explained that they’re more than just toys.

Like the dollhouse and costumes in the room, the puppets are tools that help student counselors get children with behavioral and mental health problems to open up.

“They can’t talk to you about their feelings,” Boydston explains. “But maybe they can say what ‘Mr. Duck’ thinks or ‘the frog is sad’ and why is he sad.”

Kansas Mental Health Centers Face New Budget Realities

Sep 15, 2016
Brad Nading

After a series of hits to their budgets, community mental health centers in Kansas are adjusting through cutbacks, changes in services or a combination of the two.

In Topeka, Valeo Behavioral Health Care plans to limit sessions for uninsured patients. Valeo provided about $2 million in charitable care last year but can’t offer that much this year because of cuts to Medicaid and other revenue streams, CEO Bill Persinger says.

VA Adopts New Programs For Mental Health Care

Sep 13, 2016
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fellman says a chance passerby — or, perhaps, divine intervention — kept him alive when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder became overwhelming.

Fellman, a combat veteran of the Iraq War who spoke Friday at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs summit in Topeka about mental health care, said he had planned to die on July 31, 2015.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend, the Director of Johnson County Mental Health talks about the state of mental healthcare in Kansas.

Guests:

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The director of one of the state’s largest community mental health centers says the head of the agency that oversees the behavioral health system appears to be making an effort to repair damaged relations with providers.

But he says Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck has his work cut out for him.

Matt Hodap / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend, the Director of Johnson County Mental Health talks about the state of mental healthcare in Kansas.

Guests:

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Experts from a variety of fields gathered Wednesday at the Kansas Statehouse for a mental health symposium spurred by an Emporia hospital’s struggle last year to find a psychiatric care bed for a suicidal patient.

House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, a Republican from Emporia, said she was inspired to convene the symposium after hearing from officials at Newman Regional Health.

That hospital nearly lost federal certification after a botched transfer of a patient who was having chest pains and thoughts of suicide.   

Swope Health Services

In a roundtable conversation on Thursday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon heard from police and mental health workers about their collaboration in efforts to provide treatment, not punishment, for the mentally ill.

There are five so-called "community mental health liaisons" in the Kansas City area, thanks to a three-year effort by Nixon's administration. These liaisons assist law enforcement in crisis situations such as a threatened suicide or person suffering from delusions.  

As part of a series on mental health care in Kansas by Heartland Health Monitor, we take a look at the history of Topeka's landmark mental health center: the Menninger Clinic.

Guest:

  • Roy Menninger, former president, Menninger Clinic

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The leaders of some Kansas community mental health centers say they are having trouble getting paid for some Medicaid services they believe their clients need.

Brenda Mills, CEO of Family Service and Guidance Center, a Topeka-based community mental health center that serves children, spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

Courtesy Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted a months-long investigation into what led federal officials to deem Osawatomie State Hospital as a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the fifth and final story of the series.

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Years of problems at Osawatomie State Hospital reached a crisis point in the fall of 2015, when the sexual assault of a hospital employee by a patient triggered two failed inspections and the loss of federal funding.

Kansas had relied more on OSH after it reduced the number of state hospital beds in the 1990s. The idea was to put more money into community mental health services, but that hadn’t happened since the early 2000s — and those services actually lost money during the Great Recession. 

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A top Kansas official said he hesitates to propose renovating all of Osawatomie State Hospital until he knows federal inspectors will give the state a “fair shake.”

Federal officials cut Medicare payments to OSH in December after inspectors found safety issues, including patients assaulting one another and the sexual assault of an employee. Losing the payments has cost the state about $1 million per month.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

One of the area’s leading mental health service is cutting services for more than 800 adults and children.

Wyandot Inc., an umbrella organization for four nonprofit agencies in Kansas City, Kansas, said today that it would need to cut services due to revenue losses and Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision earlier this year to reduce Medicaid reimbursements by 4 percent.

Heartland Health Monitor

Administrators at Osawatomie State Hospital worked to maintain a delicate balance in 2011 as they struggled to cope with rising demand for care and funding that hadn’t kept up.

OSH superintendents had credited the facility’s experienced workforce for pulling it through lean times before, but that key source of stability soon would be diminished.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted a months-long investigation into what led federal officials to deem Osawatomie State Hospital a facility too dangerous for Medicare patients and whether officials can rebuild the hospital for a successful future. This is the second story in a series.

Kansas State Historical Society

Editor’s note: Heartland Health Monitor partner KHI News Service conducted dozens of interviews to chart how Osawatomie State Hospital went from a respected facility to one that federal officials deemed too unsafe for Medicare patients and how the hospital could rebuild for the future. This is the first story in a series resulting from that investigation.

The final federal inspections of Osawatomie State Hospital in 2015 painted a picture of a place where both employees and patients were in danger and low staffing levels compromised care.

KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation

The director of a University of Kansas research center that recently lost the contract for its main body of work is open to resuming negotiations with state officials.

Rick Goscha, director of the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation, said he continues to receive emails and phone calls from mental health providers across the state who want to see the center and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services work through their differences so that a longstanding training and evaluation program operated by the center can continue.

What appears at first blush to be little more than a contract dispute between a state agency and a University of Kansas research center is actually much more than that.

The state’s failure to renew a contract with the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation is another assault on the state's mental health system, according to the directors of several community mental health centers.

File photo

Kansas community mental health centers are sending a distress signal to state policymakers.

The association that represents the state’s 26 community mental health centers issued a statement Wednesday expressing “strong concerns” about the $30 million in funding cuts that it says its members have suffered in the past 12 months.

“The community mental health centers have taken one devastating hit after another over the last year,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.

In the wake of a mass shooting, politicians, the media, witnesses, and victims alike all struggle to make sense of the events. It's easy to characterize a shooter as being mentally ill, but is it accurate? One University of Missouri researcher thinks that assessment is often wrong.

Guests:

  • Tahir Rahman studies severe mental illness and is associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

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:

File Photo / Kansas News Service

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.

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