A children’s psychiatric facility in Kansas City, Kansas, has agreed to set aside 12 inpatient beds for adults who have been referred to Osawatomie State Hospital but haven’t been admitted due to overcrowding there.
“This will definitely help with the situation at Osawatomie,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director with the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.
The additional beds at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital will be available Monday, Kessler said.
The adult patients, he said, will at all times stay in a building separate from those that house the facility’s younger patients.
“We’ve been working on this for at least six weeks,” Kessler said, referring to the association’s role in coordinating the needs and resources of the Osawatomie hospital, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, the region’s community mental health centers and KVC.
Prior to joining the association, Kessler was executive vice president for public affairs at KVC Behavioral Health, which, in addition to running children’s inpatient psychiatric facilities in Kansas City and Hays, is one of the state’s two foster care contractors.
Officials at Osawatomie State Hospital imposed a moratorium on new admissions last month — for the first time in state history — when the facility’s census reached 146 patients.
Though Osawatomie State Hospital has a licensed capacity of 206 patients, KDADS officials earlier this year capped admissions there at 146 patients after federal surveyors cited the facility for having too many patients, lacking sufficient staff levels and not doing enough to prevent suicidal patients from hanging themselves.
KDADS expects the hospital to return to its 206-bed capacity in November, when renovation work meant to correct some structural problems that federal inspectors identified is complete.
The hospital’s admissions are limited to patients with serious and persistent mental illnesses who’ve been found to be a danger to themselves or others. Since December, all admissions have been limited to patients whose stays are court-ordered and involuntary.
Osawatomie State Hospital is one of two state-run hospital for Kansans with mental illness. The other is in Larned.
During the moratorium, some community mental health centers and rural sheriff’s departments have not had a place to take people who, previously, would have been voluntarily admitted to the hospital.
“This has to help,” said Sandy Horton, head of the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association. “It’s not a lot, but 12 beds is 12 beds. This is a positive step, any way you look at it.”
On Tuesday, the Osawatomie hospital had 146 patients with seven discharges scheduled. Fourteen would-be patients were on the hospital’s wait list.
Kessler said the KDADS contract with KVC is for 150 days.
Jason Hooper, president of KVC Health Systems, said Tuesday in a prepared statement that KVC plans to keep the unit open after the contract ends.
“This is a very natural expansion for KVC within our existing facility, and we are looking forward to partnering with community mental health centers to make this a sustainable treatment program even after the renovations to OSH are complete,” he said.
KDADS has long had similar contracts with the inpatient psychiatric units at Via Christi Health in Wichita and Prairie View mental health center in Newton.
Generally, Via Christi and Prairie View have resisted taking involuntary patients. KVC, however, has agreed to take some involuntary patients.
Lynn Davis, who runs Breakthrough House, a Topeka-based program for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses, welcomed news of the additional beds.
“I commend KVC for doing this,” Davis said. “It’s definitely needed and definitely a good thing. There are people out there who for whatever reason need to be in Osawatomie, but they can’t get in. Or if they do get in, it’s only for a couple days, which isn’t enough.”
Earlier this month, a task force charged with critiquing the state’s mental health system filed a 41-page report with KDADS Secretary Kari Bruffett. In the report, the task force said the system is underfunded, inadequate and overly dependent on the state hospitals.
Dave Ranney is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.