LMH’s planned behavioral health stabilization center hits state roadblock

Lawrence Memorial Hospital officials told the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday that the hospital’s plan to open a behavioral health stabilization center early next year has hit a snag.

At a work session, commissioners met with the heads of LMH, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, DCCCA, Heartland Community Health Center and the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority. The agency heads spoke to commissioners about their progress in developing programs to be funded through the $1.9 million in behavioral health spending approved for the county’s 2018 budget.

Included in that spending was $400,000 to help LMH build a $1.2 million crisis stabilization unit. During June budget discussions, Karen Shumate, LMH chief operating officer, said the 1,400 square-foot unit would have one private room and a relaxation bay that could accommodate seven patients.

But LMH President Russ Johnson and Shumate told commissioners Wednesday the hospital was having difficulty securing Kansas Department of Health and Environment approvals needed to proceed with the stabilization center.

Shumate said the type of center the hospital was proposing has no precedent in Kansas, and the KDHE was having trouble fitting it into existing standards. With nothing fitting the mold, the state was suggesting applying psychiatric hospital standards to the hospital’s proposal, she said.

But the psychiatric hospital standards would significantly reduce the number of patients the hospital could treat in the unit, Johnson said.

“That’s not something we’re OK with,” he said.

The goal of starting construction on the unit in January was no longer a possibility, Shumate said. The hospital’s architects are working with the state to resolve issues, but she didn’t know whether the state would allow LMH to proceed with a design that would work for the hospital.

Johnson said an impasse with the state wouldn’t end LMH’s commitment to improve the quality of care for those who come to the hospital in a behavioral health crisis. The crisis stabilization center was the hospital’s plan A, but LMH would develop another plan if it was a nonstarter, he said.

Shumate, however, didn’t rule out the possibility a solution could be found.

“I can tell you from experience, these kinds of problems are not uncommon,” she said. “I’ve been there before.”

The 2018 budget also included $397,000 for a pilot program creating a multi-agency team to provide intensive case management for people with persistent mental illnesses.

Although Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, said he and the five-agency team did not have a complete proposal to present to commissioners, they were making progress. Patrick Schmitz, Bert Nash CEO, and Jon Stewart, Heartland CEO, said the agencies were communicating with one another as the effort continues to develop a collaborative system of care.

Tryanski said the behavioral health team was aware the commission was discussing funding options for the proposed crisis intervention center. He said the team would start crafting proposals, including job descriptions for the intensive case management team. The new proposals would be completed in November, he said.

At their regular meeting, commissioners approved a 10-year, 75 percent property tax rebate for a development in downtown Lawrence. Former Lawrence City Commissioner Bob Schumm plans to construct a five-story building with retail space, offices and 12 condos on two vacant lots in the 800 block of Vermont Street. The building would have a one-bedroom condo permanently designated as affordable housing.

The Lawrence City Commission and the Lawrence School Board had already approved tax breaks for the project.