Multiagency behavioral health team at LMH taking shape

photo by: Ashley Hocking

A sign at the entrance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital is shown on Jan. 26, 2018.

In about two months, a county-subsidized, multiagency team will be available around the clock for people seeking emergency behavioral health care at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, those involved with the team’s formation said.

During 2018 budget discussions last summer, the Douglas County Commission agreed to allocate $397,000 to fund the team, which will include employees from LMH, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, DCCCA, Heartland Community Health Center and Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center.

That team is now taking shape, Bob Tryanski, Douglas County director of behavioral health projects, told the commission at its meeting Wednesday.

Sarah Plinsky, assistant county administrator and a member of the behavioral health leadership council that did the early planning for the team, said the goal was for the team to be fully staffed and functioning in LMH in about two months.

The team would provide trained behavioral health staff around the clock to help those in crisis, Tryanski said.

After the county made its budget commitment, LMH agreed to add more behavioral health emergency beds, increasing the number it had available from two to five, Tryanski said. The hospital also committed to provide office space, to hire a director for the team and to pay the director’s salary for three years.

Last month, Derrick Hurst, who was senior director of clinical services for KVC Hospitals in Hays and Kansas City, Kan., for 12 years, was hired as the team’s director. Hurst told commissioners Wednesday that he had begun interviewing candidates for the team.

The team would deliver more than crisis stabilization, Tryanski said. It would also provide care coordination to connect patients with services they need to avoid future visits to the emergency room, he said.

Mary Jackson and Stacey Cooper, of Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center, said the center’s staff would coordinate further treatment for substance abuse patients.

“One of the things I like to say about care coordination is it’s really the center of the wheel,” Cooper said. “There’s all these programs at Bert Nash and Heartland that can be difficult for a client to navigate. It’s the creation of those relationships and making those referrals that is at the heart of care coordination.”

Tryanski said DCCCA staff already was serving as the first contact of patients admitted to the emergency room for substance abuse problems.

Douglas County Commission Chair Nancy Thellman said she was impressed with the realization of the concept presented last summer.

“What I’ve learned from all this is it’s not enough to want to change,” she said. “There’s a lot of work and a lot of relationships being built. It’s so complicated and so far beyond the impulse to want to do good.”