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Kansas mental health leaders gather in Liberal PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 20 October 2017 11:54


• Leader & Times

Statewide leaders of community health centers across Kansas met Thursday at Liberal’s Rock Island Depot with officials from the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas (ACMHK) to talk about the agency’s budget and priority policies for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as how to provide better mental health treatment for Kansans.

Towards the end of Thursday’s meeting, some of the talk turned to the KanCare insurance program. ACMHK Director Kyle Kessler said his agency’s goal is to continue to work with the three managed care companies that are a part of KanCare and to serve people on Medicaid.

“We’re wanting to do everything we can to be engaged in what the next KanCare contracts look like and work with those managed care companies too,” he said.

Kessler said the state’s mental health system has several areas of therapy it is working on in what he called an innovative way.

“I think that we are innovative health care treatment providers that can do a lot to help people, but we have several crisis right now, one of those being related to our child welfare system, another one being with the ophioid crisis and the increase in addictions and overdoses there,” he said. “The third one, which is probably the most alarming for me, is the increase in suicides.”

Kansas currently has two state mental hospitals, one in Larned and the other in Osawatomie, and Kessler said state leaders are looking to go in a slightly different direction to help with that lack.

“What the state has identified, and we agree with, is a concept referred to as community crisis centers,” he said. “Instead of going into state mental health hospitals for long term, people would go for 48 hours or 72 hours to receive stabilizing treatment to help them through the time and get them connected with community-based treatment at their community health centers.”

Those community health centers include Southwest Guidance Center in Liberal, which Kessler praised for its efforts in treating mental health patients.

“Southwest Guidance does a terrific job in providing mental health treatment here,” he said. 

More centers such as SWGC are what Kessler feels there are a need for rather than the larger state hospitals.

“I think that by looking at the history at Larned State Hospital and Osawatomie State Hospital, I don’t know that we’d add large facilities like those, but community crisis centers on a regional basis, maybe something in Western Kansas or Southwest Kansas, something in Southeast Kansas,” he said. “Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita already have these facilities.”

Kessler said additional help could be found when neighboring facilities could provide a higher level of cooperation.

“They don’t have those facilities currently, but if you could do something regional in Southwest Guidance Center working with Compass Mental Health out of Garden City and Dodge City, I think that could be really effective,” he said.

With Southwest Kansas lying near the border of a few other states, using nearby facilities such as one in Fort Supply, Okla., only about 100 miles from Liberal, is another option, Kessler said.

“I think those kind of regional models can really work if states will work with each other across the stateline,” he said. “I think that we see that happening in Kansas City between Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, and even in Southeast Kansas. It used to be pretty common for people from Independence to receive some treatment in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and vice versa.”

Kessler said in voluntary treatments, issues such as out-of-state licensing would likely be a non-issue, but concerns could arise if a patient is treated involuntarily such as through a court system.

“One state won’t recognize another state’s district court committing someone to a state hospital there,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to receive voluntary treatment or make those referrals.”

Kessler said the information discussed in Thursday’s meeting could have some effects, mostly in a positive direction, for facilities such as SWGC.

“What we try to look at with community health centers like the one here in Liberal is more access to treatment for people and higher quality treatment,” he said. “Treating adults or veterans with post traumatic stress disorder or kids who’ve been abused or neglected, they have trauma in common. If we do more trauma-informed care, we’ll be more effective in treating them long term.”




About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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