Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A group of men in the vanguard of a new model of housing for chronically homeless people with mental illnesses sat around a small conference table eating pizza recently in Leavenworth.

It was the monthly social gathering for residents of the Marion Apartments, a single-story, 10-unit complex just off Main Street.

A conference committee agreed Wednesday to adopt a budget bill that cuts $378,000 from a grant program that supports safety net clinics throughout Kansas.

“We’re greatly disappointed,” said Denise Cyzman, executive director of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, an organization that represents the 43 safety net clinics in Kansas.

Kansas Sen. Molly Baumgardner thought it’d be great if a dozen — maybe two dozen — people showed up for a town hall meeting she’d convened in Osawatomie to talk about conditions at the state mental health hospital.

“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety, I know,” she said. “People are afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they say anything.”

So it was “wonderful,” Baumgardner said, when nearly 100 people — current and former hospital employees, mostly — turned out for the 90-minute discussion Monday evening in Memorial Hall near the city’s historic John Brown Memorial Park.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

It looks like the state won’t be spending more money on its four hospitals for people whose disabilities or mental illnesses prevent them from safely caring for themselves.

Budget committees in the House and Senate have adopted Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for keeping the hospitals at their current spending levels through fiscal year 2017.

The committees each have forwarded their flat-spending recommendations to their respective chambers.

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For the second time in three months, federal officials have notified Osawatomie State Hospital that it’s on the brink of losing its Medicare payments because it is out of compliance with health and safety standards.

The latest warning, issued Jan. 30, stemmed from a Jan. 23 inspection that resulted in the hospital being cited for deficiencies in medication management and infection control, and for not doing enough to prevent suicidal patients from hanging themselves.

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A key lawmaker said he’ll encourage his legislative colleagues to support additional funding for Osawatomie State Hospital.

“There’s a huge amount of duress out there,” said House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican, referring to the 206-bed facility for adults with serious mental illness who’ve been deemed a danger to themselves or others.

“As soon as we go back into session,” Vickrey said, “several of us, I’m sure, will be meeting with the governor’s staff to find out what we need to do to get people the treatment they need.”

A decision last week by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to limit admissions to Osawatomie State Hospital has had an immediate effect on the state’s mental health system.

Marilyn Cook, executive director at COMCARE, the community mental health center in Wichita, says the state’s decision to suspend admission of voluntary patients and more closely screen involuntary admissions recently prevented the center from transferring several patients thought to be a danger to themselves or others.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has suspended voluntary admissions to Osawatomie State Hospital, one of the state’s two inpatient facilities for people with serious mental illnesses.

The decision, according to a memo sent to the state’s 26 community mental health centers late Tuesday afternoon, was driven by “ongoing and critical census challenges” at the state hospital. The memo also outlined procedures for handling patients who are involuntarily admitted.

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State officials have a three-pronged plan to ensure Osawatomie State Hospital maintains its Medicare reimbursements after a federal agency announced last week they are in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, mental health advocates say the situation at that hospital underscores the need for legislators who hold the state's purse strings to allow the executive branch to follow through on reforms that are still in their early stages.

A federal agency has sent notice that Medicare payments to overcrowded Osawatomie State Hospital will be terminated, but state officials say they will address concerns before the deadline and avoid the termination.

Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said Tuesday that she was aware of the termination notice from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But she said the state has until Dec. 8 to correct deficiencies and will do so.

Dan Verbeck/KCUR

Osawatomie, Kan. - President Obama gave an hour-long address in Osawatomie on Tuesday where he focused on the economy and creating a level playing-field for all Americans. KPR's Stephen Koranda was in the crowd and filed this report.

Obama in Osawatomie; Riding with Teddy Roosevelt

The president is coming to Osawatomie, Ks. because of a speech given there more than 100 years ago. Teddy Roosevelt delivered a speech in 1910 that called for a "New Nationalism", and defended the government's role in regulating the economy, defending human welfare and property rights. Whitehouse deputy press secretary Josh Earnest says Obama will channel Roosevelt.  Frank Morris has more of the story.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to be in Osawatomie Kansas Tuesday, and the speech he’ll give there could mark a tougher approach to his ongoing fight with congressional Republicans.