LARNED — Upon first inspection, State Senator Allen Schmidt was duly impressed by the Larned State Hospital facilities. Monday marked the first visit to the Larned State Hospital complex for Schmidt, a Democrat representing District 36, since February.
Schmidt was welcomed and escorted by Robert Connell, Larned State Hospital superintendent, starting at the Isaac Ray Building. He came away particularly impressed with the work of the staff of Kyle Rohr, superintendent of the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility.
The Juvenile Correctional Facility generally houses between 100 and 115 students who are often several grade levels behind their peer group. The juveniles often run into trouble and are expelled from school.
“We would much rather work with these young people on the front end of their issues rather than later in life,” Schmidt said. “I was impressed with some of the innovations they have applied. They emphasize good fundamental behavior with posters. They are providing valuable education to juveniles. They are doing everything they can to rehabilitate them and give them an education.”
Schmidt was heartened to hear of a success story where a recent high school graduate had gone on to achieve a associate degree.
Schmidt talked with several LSH employees to get a feel for morale.
“I was very impressed with their professionalism and motivation to do the right thing,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the supervisors and many of the employees have dealt directly with budget constraints.
“With budget constraints, there’s a lot of corners that have to be cut,” he said. “When they are short on staff, the rest of the people run extra time or take on extra duties. That being said, the facilities were very well kept and run very orderly.”
He earned a degree in school psychology at Fort Hays State and worked in a school system working with educational and behavior issues. He liked how the facilities emphasize employee appreciation with bulletin boards.
“I am really impressed with the huge responsibility that these facilities have,” he said. “They continue to do quality work.”
Coordinating other tour stops were Lesia Dipman, director, State Security Program; Cody Turner, director, Psychiatric Services Program; Dr. Austin DesLauriers, clinical director; Christopher Burke, administrative director, Sexual Predator Treatment Program; and Deputy Warden Ray Reno, Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility.
Schmidt is concerned about support for Larned State Hospital patients after they are released from various aspects of the facility.
Schmidt was elected in February to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Janis Lee, who was appointed to be the chief hearing officer for the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals. Lee served as assistant minority leader of the Senate.
Schmidt said he appreciated the professionalism and attention to detail for the program directors he met.
“It’s great getting a chance to visit with the experts to fully understand the value of services provided at the Larned State Hospital,” Schmidt said. “Now, that I’ve personally visited, I can better monitor the issues related to the Larned State Hospital.”
Schmidt said he would like to coordinate a future visit in conjunction with Rob Siedlecki, a Florida health agency official, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
He said Lee was known as a strong advocate for the Larned State Hospital.
“I knew someone had to step up,” he said. “I will listen to the people and want to understand the projects that are ongoing. I know my investment of time and education will prove worthwhile.”
His 10-county area includes Pawnee, Ellis, Hodgeman, Mitchell, Osborne, Phillips, Rush, Russell, Smith and Jewell counties. He serves on committees for natural resources, agriculture, education and joint committees for Kansas security and administration rules and regulations.
Governor Mark Parkinson appointed Kansas Senator Janis Lee and Trevor Wohlford to the Kansas State Court of Tax Appeals in November. The Court of Tax Appeals ensures that all property in the state is equally and uniformly assessed for tax purposes. The Court is composed of three tax court judges and a chief hearing officer who resolve disputes between taxpayers and taxing authorities