Lawrence is a growing community, and it's good to see local hospital officials working to grow along with it.
Congratulations to Lawrence Memorial Hospital officials for finding a way to expand rather than reduce mental health services.
The LMH Board of Trustees had considered closing the hospital's mental health unit after it lost more than $300,000 in 1999. Changes in reimbursement from private insurance and government programs were the main culprit in the financial loss and the situation was not expected to improve.
However, several factors made LMH trustees and administrators look for alternatives to closing the unit. First, local residents and officials at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center expressed concern over discontinuing the LMH unit, which had provided an important lifeline for local residents in need of mental health care.
People with mental illness have experienced other losses recently, notably the conversion of Acceptance House into a drop-in center instead of a temporary overnight shelter. The announced closing of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka will leave another hole in the fabric of mental health services in this area. It wasn't a good time for LMH to withdraw from providing mental health treatment.
So LMH officials looked for other options and proposed that, rather than closing the mental health unit because it was being underutilized, they add services to use the facilities to better advantage. So the board decision on Wednesday was to add a new geriatric psychiatric service at LMH. The hospital will provide a range of services for senior citizens many of whom have no history of mental health problems but may now need services because of illness, the loss of a spouse or other stresses that are part of the aging process.
So instead of cutting back on mental health services, the hospital is expanding the services in ways that will reach more people and hopefully provide the revenue needed to support the unit for both geriatric and younger patients.
It's a good decision for the community and hopefully will prove to be a positive financial decision for LMH. Like any business, the hospital must pay attention to the bottom line. The rising cost of providing health care, along with changes in private and government insurance reimbursement policies have made it more difficult for a hospital like LMH to remain solvent. But hospital officials seem to be trying hard to provide as many services as they can for local residents.
Improvements in the mental health unit are a good example of this positive trend.