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Pawnee County officials planning trip to Topeka
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LARNED — Pawnee County officials discussed potential dates for a trip to Topeka at their regular meeting Monday. As in the past, the delegation that includes Pawnee County Commissioners and members of the legislative task force would be discussing issues facing state legislators during the current session regarding Larned State Hospital. They will also be meeting with officials of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the state’s mental health facilities, including LSH.

The commissioners met Monday with legislative liaison Steve Kearney via Zoom to look at possible dates, noted Pawnee County Commissioner Bob Rein Jr. 

Kearney, a Topeka attorney, has served as liaison between the county and LSH’s state oversight agency for the better part of a decade.

Rein said that the trip is being planned for two weeks from Monday. “We try to go up once a year to meet with legislators and anyone else that we think we need to meet with,” Rein said. 

“We are looking at the week of Feb. 13, two weeks from now.

“We used to do that every year and then COVID kind of got that off-track,” Rein said. “We need to get back on track with that.”

In the months leading up the current session, Kansas lawmakers were looking at several ongoing issues facing the state’s mental health system, from workforce shortages, pay disparities, shortages of patient beds, long wait times and the pressures being placed on law enforcement agencies to house and transport individuals in need or waiting for the screening process.

“We want to get up to speed on things that have happened with the session so far, what things have been talked about related with the county and the state hospital,” Rein noted.  

Each year, the county also conducts a leadership forum to discuss varying county issues. Last March, LSH hosted the event that looked at current issues facing the state hospital, KDADS and the Larned Mental Health Correctional Facility on the LSH campus. State and area county elected officials were invited to attend.

Occupying a 78-acre campus, LSH is the largest psychiatric facility in the state, serving 66 counties in western Kansas. The hospital campus has three separate and diverse patient programs: The Psychiatric Services Program (PSP); the State Security Program (SSP) and the Sexual Predator Treatment Program (SPTP).

The Adult Treatment Center (ATC) opened in 1990 to provide specialized behavioral health services to individuals admitted from LSH’s catchment area on a voluntary status or civilly committed through the court system. The PSP is licensed to provide treatment services for up to 90 patients.

PSP capacity was decreased in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow all patients private rooms in order to decrease or minimize spread of the disease and to safely manage patients due to staffing shortages.

The SSP is budgeted for 140 patients. The SSP serves male and female adult mentally ill forensic populations admitted through specific forensic statutes.

The SPTP was established by a 1994 statute that provides for the civil commitment of persons identified as sexually violent predators. SPTP residents progress through three tiers toward placement at one of the reintegration facilities located at LSH, Osawatomie State Hospital and Parsons State Hospital and Training Center. 

The Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF) was originally built in response to a 1989 federal court order to meet long-term needs of the Kansas Department of Corrections’ mentally ill inmates.

Its status was changed in 2017 to house offenders aged 18-25 sentenced to the custody of the Secretary of Corrections.

LCMHF consists of a medium-security central unit with 310 beds and a minimum-security west unit with 288 beds.