Topeka Overcrowded conditions have forced officials to shut the doors to voluntary admissions at state mental health hospitals on two occasions.
Mental health advocates, lobbying for more funding for psychiatric programs, said the suspension of voluntary admissions could cause big problems.
“We are pressing our luck,” said Mike Hammond, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.
Roy Menninger, president of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, said cutting off Kansans from being able to voluntarily admit themselves to a state psychiatric hospital will worsen their condition and put themselves at risk of harm or even death.
“Please don’t make any further cuts,” Menninger asked the Legislative Budget Committee.
Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Secretary Don Jordan said the agency had to delay voluntary admissions from May 19 to May 26 and July 16 to July 20 because the state’s hospitals were over capacity.
Those facilities include Osawatomie State Hospital, Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan., and Larned State Hospital Psychiatric Services Program. Combined, the three facilities can have approximately 305 people on a daily basis. Jordan ordered delays in voluntary admissions when the hospitals were at 332 and 328.
“Extremely high census jeopardizes patient and staff safety,” he said.
SRS has been hammered with budget cuts over the past two years as state revenues dipped during the recession.
Rick Cagan, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Kansas, said the state hospitals are “starved for resources.” The cost of providing care to those with mental illness is being pushed onto the criminal justice system, he said.
“There are four to five times as many individuals with serious mental illness in our jails and prisons in Kansas than we have licensed bed capacity in our state mental health hospitals,” he said.