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Archive for Thursday, September 2, 2004

50 inmates waiting for Larned Hospital

September 2, 2004

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— State budget cuts and the growth of the sexual-predator unit at Larned State Hospital are blamed for a backlog of about 50 inmates waiting for admission to the mental health facility.

About half of the inmates on the waiting list need court-ordered evaluations to determine whether they are competent to stand trial, as well as for an array of other reasons. The other inmates need mental health care, said Mark Schutter, hospital superintendent.

The backlog comes as the hospital's security program has lost 40 beds within the past couple of years, Schutter said. About 30 beds were lost because of state budget cuts. Another 10 beds were lost because of growth at the sexual predator unit, which houses more than 100 sex offenders undergoing long-term care and treatment.

Jails and prisons nationally are seeing more individuals with serious mental illnesses filling their cells, he said. Part of that is because the prison population is growing, but the proportion of mentally ill inmates also is growing.

"I think as mental health treatment grows and improves it wouldn't be unlikely that we would diagnose people more accurately and perhaps more frequently," Schutter said. "The truth is, we don't know."

Relief could come when a new building with a capacity of 250 beds is finished next spring. But for the new building to reach capacity, staff would need to be added, and funding for new staff has not yet been approved, Schutter said.

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