By Mike Shields
KHI News Service
TOPEKA — Kansas officials are prepared to move forward with some of the resulting recommendations by a Colorado consultant, including reducing the number of employees at Larned State Hospital and Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka.
Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, the agency that oversees the hospitals, said no layoffs would be required to complete the agency’s follow-up plan.
The equivalent of about 35 full-time jobs at KNI and 22 at Larned would be eliminated over the next two years as workers retire, resign or otherwise leave.
The Buckley Group LLC, based in Englewood, Colo., concluded that 50 positions could be cut at Larned, saving the state an estimated $2.7 million, but Sullivan decided fewer reductions would be more prudent.
Sullivan said the agency plans to:
• Consolidate two residence buildings on the KNI campus, one in July 2014 and the second by July 2015.
• Combine the hospital’s medical unit and out-patient clinic by July 2014.
• Reduce operations at the hospital’s dental clinic from full-time to part-time by July 2014.
• Eliminate some administrative positions to reflect the hospital’s declining patient census.
All told, 35 jobs will be cut, Sullivan said. But there will be no layoffs.
Instead, like at Larned, the reductions will made “through attrition,” as workers retire or otherwise leave KNI employment.
The consultant’s report on the state hospital for the mentally ill in Osawatomie was made public in early September and was featured in this report by KHI News Service.
Sullivan said a pilot program for implementing some of the recommended changes started there Nov. 1. The Osawatomie report called for different staffing structures and shifted responsibilities, but did not call for reductions on par with those recommended at Larned and KNI.
Altogether, the Buckley Group cited about $8.2 million in potential annual savings that could be realized at Larned, Osawatomie and KNI. The four reports cost the state about $200,000, according to KDADS officials.
The consultant’s report on Parsons State Hospital and Training Center, which has 188 beds and serves the developmentally disabled, has not been released publicly.
Sullivan said the recommendations for Parsons “were minimal” because many of the changes that might have been suggested already had been implemented the past two years.
He anticipated savings of $3 million from changes at KNI and Larned, versus the $5.2 million recommended by Buckley, but he had not decided yet how much might be saved from changes at Osawatomie.
Sullivan hoped to plow those savings back into the hospitals or related programs rather than return dollars to the state general fund.
“I have a good enough relationships with the legislators on the appropriations committees that they will respect that we are trying to do this gradually and without going to them asking for more money,” he said.
In both the Larned and Osawatomie reports, the consultant noted that there were significant numbers of patients who probably didn’t need to be there, but for the lack of community treatment options.
Sullivan said he thought the state lacked “intermediate” mental health care facilities focused on crisis stabilization and detoxification of drug and alcohol abusers.
“We have the community mental health centers at one end of the continuum and the state hospitals on the other end of the continuum, but we don’t have enough intermediate facilities,” he said.
Agency officials, he said, soon will announce their plans for the Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan., much of which has been mothballed the past two years after failing a fire marshal’s inspection.
Sullivan said the new Rainbow model would “be built around a drop-off, triage and assessment type of center” where people could be taken by law enforcement or mental health screeners.
He said those types of short-term services could reduce the number of patients sent to the state hospital in Osawatomie and Larned.
Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, said he agreed that more resources were needed.
“The association is in agreement with the need for more community resources, including crisis stabilization and detox services,” he said. “This could help alleviate the strain on the existing hospital resources so those individuals who need higher levels of care for longer durations are able to receive it. Adding crisis stabilization and detox services to the continuum of care currently offered could help individuals receive the most appropriate level of care in the most timely manner.”