Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir and Pawnee County Sheriff Scott King met with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Thursday in Topeka. Friday, Bellendir released a statement regarding the meeting, which reads:
“On February 10, 2022 Sheriff Scott King of the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office and myself met with Gov. Laura Kelly in Topeka at the state house. The topic of meeting was the ongoing situation at Larned State Hospital. The hospital has been the topic of conversation in law enforcement circles due to their inability to accept emergency commitments and security issues.
Present at the meeting were Gov. Kelly, Sec. Laura Howard of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), Deputy Sec. Scott Bruner, Chief of Staff Will Lawrence and Deputy Chief of Staff for the Governor, Ryan Wright. The meeting with the governor lasted about one hour.
Sec. Howard had previously been made aware of the concerns of law enforcement and community members in western Kansas about the situation. Sec. Howard had made note of these concerns and presented several potential solutions.
Some of the key points include opening one or more ‘crisis houses’ in the western part of the state that would allow for trained staff to monitor a person who is in crisis until the state hospital could accept them. The secretary is looking into the possibility of acquiring unused buildings at Larned State Hospital for this purpose.
Another idea would be to create a ‘single point of contact’ for law enforcement. This would alleviate confusion caused by talking to several different people at the facility. Sec. Howard went on to say requirements for the ‘catchment areas’ enforced by the state may be waived in certain circumstances. The governor’s office is also looking into expanding the ‘mobile competency’ evaluations for some individuals. This would help alleviate the backlog at Larned.
We were advised that a security audit is taking place at Larned State Hospital and improvements in security are being scrutinized. Sec. Howard went on to say the state hospital will be allowed to implement the necessary procedures once they are developed.
In all, Sec. Howard addressed 12 key issues of concern to the citizens of Western Kansas. Gov. Kelly was supportive of the concerns expressed by Sheriff King and I. Sheriff King and myself both felt the meeting was a positive endeavor and a step in the right direction.”
When reached for comment Friday afternoon, Cara Sloan-Ramos, public information officer for KDADS, released the following statement:
“Sheriffs Bellendir and King are important partners for KDADS and Larned State Hospital. We share the same goals of getting help to those in need and keeping our communities safe. The meeting yesterday was the continuation of ongoing conversations between the sheriffs, KDADS and hospital leadership.
It was a productive meeting that resulted in both immediate actions and longer-term goals that will address some of the concerns raised by Sheriffs Bellendir and King. Our conversations will continue and our external security review will begin later this month. Local law enforcement will have an opportunity to take part in that review. KDADS believes any further comments or statements would be most appropriate once that review is completed.
Finally, again, we appreciate the work of Sheriffs Bellendir and King and the rest of the law enforcement community.”