Douglas County Commission to consider proposal to enhance behavioral health service

photo by: Journal-World Graphic

The Douglas County Commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider a proposal to enhance services that Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center provides to certain patients who are recovering from behavioral health crises.

In a memo to the County Commission, Bob Tryanski, the county director of behavioral health services, writes that one of the initiatives introduced this year with county funding is the $395,000 multiagency crisis team that provides support for those entering the Lawrence Memorial Hospital emergency unit in mental health or substance abuse crisis. Heartland RADAC coordinates the ongoing substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, primary physical health care and housing counseling that the crisis patients receive after they leave the hospital.

Tryanski is proposing that Heartland RADAC’s 2018 contract for providing case coordination for such patients be increased from $90,000 to up to $115,000. The additional $25,000 would allow Heartland RADAC staff to be available to the crisis team seven days a week and allow the agency to house a staff member at the Lawrence Community Shelter, where many of the crisis team clients are placed.

Tryanski proposes that the $25,000 come from the unspent portion of the $900,000 that commissioners allocated in the 2018 budget so that Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and Heartland Community Health Center could hire four psychiatrists. Tryanski writes that some of the money wasn’t spent on salaries because of employment gaps that resulted from turnover.

Commissioners also will hear a presentation on the Tobacco 21 initiative from Vicki Collie-Akers, chair of the LiveWell Douglas County Tobacco 21 working group and associate director of health promotion research at the University of Kansas. Collie-Akers and teens from the Boys & Girls Club anti-smoking Resist team made a presentation Monday to the Lawrence school board on the Tobacco 21 initiative, a national movement that has convinced 300 cities in the United States and 21 in Kansas to raise to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products. After Collie-Akers’ presentation Monday, the school board agreed to write a letter to the Lawrence City Commission in support of raising from 18 to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products in Lawrence. The City Commission is to consider the change at its Oct. 9 meeting.

After the school board meeting, Collie-Akers said she would request that the County Commission raise the age to buy tobacco products in the county’s unincorporated areas to 21. Her research indicated the change would affect four establishments in rural Douglas County, she said.

Douglas County Commission Chair Nancy Thellman said she thought Collie-Akers and the Boys & Girls Club teens could make a compelling public health case to raise the age to purchase tobacco, but she was unsure of the county’s legal standing to make the change. Any such request would have to be forwarded to County Counselor John Bullock, she said.

The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. To view the commission’s entire agenda, visit


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