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Pawnee County votes against its best interests
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To the editor:

In his Jan. 12 Great Bend Tribune public forum letter, Charles Tabler questioned how the good folks of Larned can bring proper attention to the need for increased funding to solve current problems at Larned State Hospital. 

Tabler listed real-world harms of this funding neglect: LSH has staff shortages due to overworked employees and low wages. Staff shortages reduce capacity, which reduces the number of patients receiving care even as the number of Kansans needing care increases. Area law enforcement agencies spend more time and resources managing mentally ill suspects as mental care needs are dumped back on them. 

Tabler speculated that the 194-mile distance from Larned to Topeka is part of the challenge, but there are much shorter distances involved. 

It is 38 miles from Larned to Ellinwood, the home of Larned’s state senator, Alicia Straub. Mr. Tabler sees current LSH funding as inadequate, but Sen. Straub has boasted about voting against the current state budget because it increased spending. For Straub, even a budget that Brownback-style politicians vote for is not extreme enough. It must be less. She calls on us to keep an even larger portion of income for ourselves rather than for the mental health care of Kansans. 

It is 0 miles from Larned to Pawnee County. In 2017, then Senator Mary Jo Taylor voted to reverse the Brownback income tax cut fiscal train wreck. In 2020, the billionaire-supported dark money political propaganda platforms found what they wanted in Straub and targeted Taylor for defeat. Pawnee County voters favored Straub over Taylor by a 60% to 40% margin.

In the 2018 gubernatorial race, Kris Kobach campaigned to largely return to the Brownback income tax cuts. Pawnee County voters favored Kobach over Laura Kelly by a 58% to 42% margin, not counting third-party candidates. This year, Gov. Kelly has proposed an increase of $29.3 million to fund the state’s mental hospitals, as well as grants to expand private psychiatric bed capacity and suicide prevention.

It sure seems like a good step in solving the current problems at Larned State Hospital would be for Pawnee County to change who it votes for.


John Sturn