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State pursues regional mental health care beds

The Hutchinson News - 12/7/2018

Dec. 07--There is "widespread interest" in a strategy where the state would help fund regional locations providing inpatient mental health and/or substance abuse treatment.

A state request for proposals from vendors who could provide regional community beds was posted Nov. 20. Proposals are due Jan. 11, 2019. Based on the number of queries for information, said Angela de Rocha, communications director for the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, "There is widespread interest in this."

It isn't known if Hutchinson Regional Medical Center or its affiliated Horizons Mental Health Center will submit proposals. "We will review the RFP (request for proposals) and see if it would meet our community needs and fit within our business model but we won't know until we are able to review the RFP in detail," said Sue Wray, director of communications for the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System.

"This is really meant to be an alternative," said KDADS Secretary Tim Keck, to state hospital beds. Demand exceeds capacity at mental hospitals in Osawatomie and Larned, and both sites face the challenge of filling hospital jobs. The scale of the hospitals is "probably bigger than the communities can support, certainly Larned," Keck said in a phone interview Thursday.

The unemployment rate in the region surrounding Larned stands at under 3 percent. In one recent month, the number of unemployed in Hodgeman County, near Larned'sPawnee County, was 23 people.

An even bigger factor, though, is studies that show the benefits of receiving mental health care close to home. If a person can get local care -- rather than go to Larned or Osawatomie -- they are more likely to keep their family intact, keep their job, and keep their house, according to Keck.

On any given day there could be 30 or so people from Wichita in Larned or Osawatomie. Larned is about two hours from Wichita, and Osawatomie, about two and a half hours.

"I'm really excited to follow the concept," said Keck, who sees it as a game-changer in mental health services.

A contractor could have several funding streams, including private insurance, Medicaid/Medicare, and state funding. KDADS is seeking about $15 million related to this project in the budget year beginning July 1, 2019.

The proposals are due just days before Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, takes office and her Democratic administration follows eight years of Republican governors. Whatever happens, this will be tied up and ready to go, Keck said.

The News was unable to reach a Kelly spokesperson Thursday, but Keck said Kelly seems to have been interested in the concept.

"We think that this model has some merit," said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Health Centers of Kansas Inc. He, too, cited the drawbacks of receiving mental health treatment far from home.

State Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, is another advocate of regional services.

Under the approximately 57-page request for proposals, the contract could be awarded for 15 years with an option to renew. Contractors and their employees would have to meet necessary licensure requirements. During the first year of the contract, the contractor would have to furnish monthly staffing reports to the KDADS Secretary. KDADS would establish minimum staffing levels and also mandate key positions, such as chief medical officer, psychologist, and psychiatrist.

The successful bidders "shall meet or exceed all licensure standards for a psychiatric hospital in the State of Kansas," the request states.

Voluntary and court-ordered patients would use the envisioned locations. The contractor may propose the region it seeks to serve. "If the region is deemed appropriate, the expectation for the provision of services is a 'no eject/reject' requirement," the request said. The contractor would have the opportunity to seek state approval to adjust the service area later.

The contractor shall have a treatment plan for each patient. It also shall provide each patient, at the time of discharge or furlough, with a minimum of a three-day supply of clinically required medications in keeping with the patient's care plan.

The RFP "is to propose to us what you want to do," de Rocha said. "If we can get these facilities set up," she said, she anticipated there would be funding because of support for the regional model.


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