Topeka A tightening state budget raised concerns Wednesday about conditions at a Kansas mental health hospital.
Osawatomie State Hospital has been at or over patient capacity this year, while plans to expand the facility and hire more people to handle the increased workload have been put on hold, officials said.
"My understanding is that we have a hospital that is stressed out," said state Sen. Pat Apple, R-Louisburg. "It seems to me that we are getting to the breaking point as far as safety for our patients and safety for our staff."
Don Jordan, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, said the agency is trying to maintain safety while managing through several budget issues.
"We have a lot of priorities," he told members of a House-Senate committee studying social service funding.
He noted that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has called on state agencies to reduce current fiscal year spending by 2 percent because of projected shortfalls in revenue.
Jordan said that means SRS had to put its hospitals on notice that it would not be able to provide any additional funding should they spend more than their budgeted allotment.
This has led hospitals to tighten their spending, he said.
And, he said, remodeling of a building at Osawatomie, which would have provided room for 30 more patients, has been put on hold because the Legislature approved only a half-year of funding for the facility.
It wouldn't have made sense, Jordan said, to open the additional building in the current budget climate.
Osawatomie State Hospital has a capacity of 176 patients, and it has been running from 160 patients to 190 patients during the year, officials said.
Larned State Hospital's sex predator treatment program also is getting overcrowded, Jordan said.