Sep 21, 2023

Kansas state officials announce grants for mental health hospital beds

Kansas state officials announced grants for mental health needs across the state Wednesday. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA – Millions of dollars in grant money has been set aside to boster the state's mental health services as officials respond to a shortage of resources for those struggling with mental illness.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services distributed $65.4 million from the state's federal COVID-19 recovery funds to strengthen behavioral health services across the state, in a wave of grants announced by Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday.

"My administration continues to be laser-focused on increasing access to mental health resources and care, which is fundamental to safe and healthy communities," Kelly said. "Thanks to the work of KDADS, the SPARK Committee, the State Finance Council and the awardees, we are making progress in knocking down barriers to mental health care in Kansas."

The funding comes after months of health care officials and law enforcement officers testifying to lawmakers about mental health concerns. The state has increased mental health beds in the last four years by about 32% – with about 954 mental health beds now available in the state– but officials say needs are still outpacing resources.

With a shortage of room in psychiatric facilities across the state, community hospitals and jails have had to shoulder housing and care costs for mentally unstable patients, in many cases without state reimbursement.

People deemed a danger to themselves or others are typically sent to the county jail until a hospital bed is ready. In Sedgwick County, where mental health beds are particularly needed, $25 million has been allocated to create a state-owned, 50-bed mental health hospital.

KVC Health Systems has been allocated $12.7 million for a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in Olathe. The expansion will result in 48 additional beds for youth and 24 additional adult beds within the KVC mental health system.

"Having this money in the community will result in more services being available in certain geographic regions of the state and increased capacity through expanded services," said KDADS Deputy Secretary of Hospitals and Facilities Scott Brunner. "Kansans with disabilities, long-term care needs and those suffering from mental illness will be the ones to realize the positive changes and impact we’ll no doubt see as a result of programs that will be implemented by our awardees."

Wichita State University and the University of Kansas: Health Sciences Education Center will receive $15 million for a joint health sciences education center project. The center, which will be based in Wichita, is meant to expand health care education opportunities for Kansans.

Other grants include funding for local hospitals and nursing homes, along with $1.1 million for expansion of the University of Kansas Health System Care Collaborative, meant to provide more services in rural communities.

by Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector May 17, 2023

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A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.