mental health

TRAVIS MORISSE / HUTCHINSON NEWS

Every day, hundreds of Kansans with serious mental illnesses receive treatment in communities, state psychiatric hospitals or nursing facilities. But when a person with a serious mental illness slips through the growing gaps in the system, the results can be deadly.

This story examines how Brandon Brown, a Kansas man with schizophrenia, moved through the state’s mental health system — and how that system may have failed him and the man he murdered.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service/File photo

A new effort is underway to get more mental health services in rural areas of Kansas.

Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill designed to increase mental health services and get more psychiatrists into practice in underserved areas of the state.

The Kansas Psychiatric Society says all but five counties in Kansas have mental health professional shortages.

The idea is for the state to provide loans to medical students who agree to practice psychiatry in counties other than Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee or Wyandotte.

55Laney69, flickr Creative Commons

As part of a four-year, $9 million System of Care federal grant, Wichita State's Center for Behavioral Health Initiatives (CBHI) at WSU's Community Engagement Institute is working to help children with serious emotional disturbances. The CBHI will also be contracting with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disabilities Services.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

In tight budget times, Kansas mental health advocates are turning to the lottery for some financial help.

Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, said the association will ask the Legislature to commit an additional $31 million over the next two fiscal years for the centers. That $31 million — pulled from Kansas lottery proceeds — would return funding for the 26 centers across the state to the 2007 fiscal year level.

Sedgwickcounty.org

Mental health professionals are seeing a decrease in the number of suicides in Sedgwick County, and more people are seeking help.

In 2014, there were 82 suicides in Sedgwick County. Last year, that number went down to 68. Nearly 75 percent of the suicides in 2015 were men – mostly middle-aged.

Deidre Helm is the program manager of Comcare’s Community Crisis Center, which is open 24 hours a day in downtown Wichita. Helm says more people are seeking help from the center and online.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A task force chaired by Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to address problems in rural health care determined that expanding telemedicine, addressing workforce shortages and giving providers more flexibility were key to Kansas’ future.

The Rural Health Working Group wrapped up a year of meetings Tuesday and is now compiling a set of recommendations to present to the Legislature ahead of the session that begins Jan. 9.

Professors of PEACE

A new software system being developed uses a person’s expressive writing to help identify early signs of mental illness.

A user responds to a prompt and enters their creative writing into the online program. The writing is analyzed over a range of topics such as relationships, anger and addiction to find out if there are any themes or underlying emotional or mental concerns.

Wichita State University graduate student Johnna Crawford created the system.

Phil Cauthon for KHI News Service

The state is seeking a private partner to operate Osawatomie State Hospital under a proposal that would allow the contractor to shift more than half the hospital’s beds to other parts of eastern Kansas.

A request for proposals to operate Osawatomie State Hospital was posted Monday on the Kansas Department of Administration website. It would require a contractor to maintain 206 beds for inpatient mental health treatment but said only 94 would have to be at Osawatomie State Hospital. Any remaining beds would have to be in the hospital’s catchment area, which covers eastern Kansas.

KHI News Service/File photo

The heads of Kansas’ 26 community mental health centers are preparing to push an ambitious set of proposals to address what they say are growing gaps in the state’s behavioral health system.

In addition to restoring funding cuts made prior to the Great Recession, the center directors want Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers to expand a network of regional crisis intervention centers.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Advocates for Medicaid expansion in Kansas are focusing on a new issue in their final push before next week’s election: They’re selling expansion as a way to address the state’s mental health crisis and the public safety concerns it’s giving rise to.

It’s no secret that the mental health system in Kansas is strained almost to the breaking point.

State hospitals are at capacity. And after suffering millions of dollars in budget cuts, community mental health centers are struggling to maintain services.

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