LARNED — For the second time in just over two years, the superintendent at the Larned State Hospital has been fired.
Rob Siedlecki, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services, is responsible for overseeing the Larned State Hospital (LSH) complex. Siedlecki has been in his position since January after coming from the Florida Department of Health.
Robert Connell, Larned State Hospital superintendent, was fired July 1 and was paid a $105,000 annual salary. He started with LSH as clinical director of the State Security program Jan. 10, 2005.
Connell was appointed LSH superintendent Jan 10, 2010 when Mark Schutter was fired as superintendent at Larned State Hospital in a nearly identical fashion. Schutter was superintendent at LSH from April 2001 to April 24, 2009.
Kansas State Senator Allen Schmidt (D-Hays) had advance warning of Connell’s departure, but was nevertheless surprised. He said Connell apparently wasn’t given much advance warning his services were no longer needed.
“I was surprised like everyone else,” Schmidt said. “I have great respect for the job Robert Connell has done. Anytime you have a change in leadership, it comes at a price. It can set your particular department back.”
Schmidt said he had a conversation with Siedlecki Friday in Dodge City at a SRS-Medicare meeting about the move, but Siedlecki didn’t shed any additional light on the the change was made.
Schmidt was advised about a state budget review of various departments in regards to efficiency, but wasn’t aware that was related to Connell’s departure.
“I know there is a review going on with other departments,” he said.
Dr. Christopher Burke will serve as interim superintendent at Larned State Hospital. Dr. Burke has worked at LSH since 2007 and has served as the administrative program director since 2010.
The patient census at LSH was 492 on June 6, 2011. LSH admissions are limited to mentally ill adults who are considered a danger to themselves or others. Patients are often taken to the hospitals by police.
Larned State Hospital is comprised of three programs:
• The State Security Program, which provides psychiatric evaluations for the Kansas Department of Corrections and houses inmates with severe mental illness.
• The Psychiatric Services Program, which serves as a 79-bed, in-patient psychiatric unit for 59 counties in the western two-thirds of the state.
• The Sexual Predator Treatment Program, a 160-bed treatment program for sexual predators.
The sexual predator and psychiatric services programs often exceed their licensed capacities. The security program has a waiting list.
The LSH superintendent oversees all three programs.
On July 1, Siedlecki also fired Greg Valentine, superintendent of the Osawatomie State Hospital and the Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City. Valentine worked for six years and had an annual salary of $95,000.
Jane Carter, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the firings came as a complete surprise.
“To have two large state hospitals that are offering critical services to the citizens of Kansas in a protective way and caring for those who can’t care for themselves — it’s a bit bothersome,” Carter said.