Douglas County Commission approves $100,000 for psychiatric residency program

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Commission Vice Chair Shannon Reid, from left, Chair Shannon Portillo and Commissioner Patrick Kelly are pictured during the commission's first in-person meeting on June 16, 2021, at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

Douglas County leaders have approved repurposing $100,000 in behavioral health funding toward a residency rotation program that will soon bring four psychiatric resident physicians to the community mental health center.

As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission voted unanimously to repurpose up to $100,000 in psychiatric infrastructure supplemental funds to support a partnership between Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the University of Kansas Medical Center to host a psychiatric resident clinical rotation in Douglas County. The funding is being repurposed from a previously funded position that was not filled amid the coronavirus pandemic, and commissioners agreed that the program represented a good opportunity for the community.

“It was disappointing when we lost that person in January, but this almost seems like maybe a better model for us to find someone who’s willing to stay in Lawrence and make sure community mental health is the right place for them to be,” Commissioner Patrick Kelly said. “I think it just turned out right and this seems like a great opportunity.”

The partnership will be between Douglas County, Bert Nash and the University of Kansas Medical Center. The four psychiatric resident physicians, in their third or fourth year of training, will each work one day per week to provide psychiatric evaluation and treatment of patients as part of a clinical rotation in community mental health. The program will start in July of this year, and residents will serve for six to 12 months.

The program funding for the next year will be repurposed from a previously funded psychiatrist position at Heartland Community Health Center that was not filled after the potential hire withdrew their contract in January, according to a county memo. The memo states the Behavioral Health Leadership Coalition partners and the Psychiatric Infrastructure work group endorse the repurposing of the funds to support the residency project. A long-term funding source for the resident rotation program has yet to be identified, but partners said they are working to identify options.

In other business, as part of the commission’s study session, the Mobile Access work group presented a proposal to fund a pilot of a mobile mental health crisis team using the behavioral health sales tax that voters approved in 2018. The five-member team would use a van to respond in person to certain crisis calls and would consist of one program manager, two mental health professionals, one certified peer support specialist, and one crisis case manager. The program has a target budget of under $450,000.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first in-person meeting the commission has had since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.


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