Nearly four months after a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated its anticipated launch, the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County has received a provisional license. The date the center will open its doors to patients, however, remains uncertain.
At Wednesday’s Douglas County Commission meeting, behavioral health leaders explained why the process had lagged and discussed some of the challenges that remain. They also emphasized that although the facility has yet to open, the services it will provide already are available to community members.
Bob Tryanski, Douglas County director of behavioral health projects, acknowledged that many in the community want to know the status of the center. He told commissioners he wouldn’t give excuses but rather “wade into some of the complexities” the project has faced.
Dr. George Thompson, medical director and executive director for TRC, said thousands of details and decisions have faced him and his team. County and behavioral health leaders have traveled to Phoenix to observe Connections Health Solutions to help shape the local center’s vision.
“And so if we’re taking a little bit longer, what I am here to guarantee is that the payoff will be the very first person that comes to our facility will feel like they’re in good hands,” Thompson said.
The 20,000-square-foot Treatment and Recovery Center, or TRC, is located north of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center as part of the recovery campus. The $10.6 million facility is designed to provide all-ages access to medical and behavioral health treatment during crises involving serious mental illness, substance use disorders and addiction.
A major hurdle to opening the facility’s doors as a crisis intervention center has been licensing. With an original target date to open July 1, Thompson said, local leaders in March began the licensing process with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
Staff then learned the Kansas Legislature’s passage in 2017 of the Crisis Intervention Act had created a new type of licensed facility in Kansas — the crisis intervention center; however, the regulations for the centers still have not been released publicly. That means facilities like the TRC can’t currently get licensed as crisis intervention centers.
The alternative, Thompson said, was to apply for a license as a private psychiatric hospital.
“A different license, but that would allow us to do the same services,” Thompson said.
Both the crisis intervention center and the private psychiatric hospital models allow for 24/7 care, combined treatment for mental health and substance use, and involuntary admissions. Although licensing as a crisis intervention center is the long-term goal, the provisional licensing it received as a private psychiatric hospital will allow the center to serve patients as intended when the TRC opens its doors.
“One of the things that this center needed to be able to do was to take any person, regardless of their level of psychiatric acuity, meaning, no matter how aggressive they were, how much in despair they were feeling, like hurting themselves, killing themselves, no matter how much their voices were bothering them, they hadn’t been sleeping because of mania, how intoxicated they were, or how much in withdrawal, they were, wanted to be able to take care of those people,” Thompson said.
Provisional licenses are the norm, Thompson said, because inspectors will need to examine the facility once it is in use to evaluate its kitchen and records related to patient care and human resources.
Cara Sloan-Ramos, spokesperson for KDADS, said in an email Wednesday morning the oversight agency had completed its final walkthrough and issued a provisional private psychiatric hospital license effective Oct. 17, 2022 through June 30, 2023 to Behavioral Health Partners, Treatment and Recovery Center.
Behavioral Health Partners Inc. is the nonprofit partnership between LMH Health and Bert Nash that provides operational management and clinical oversight of the TRC. It’s led by a nine-member board and collaborates with additional community partners to form the Douglas County Behavioral Health Leadership Coalition.
Although a bevy of partners helps coordinate mental health care services throughout the community, it also adds to the project’s complexity. Commission Vice Chair Patrick Kelly acknowledged that and encouraged a solid plan for the center’s opening.
“I’m sure the pressure is tremendous from within your organizations because they work every day with the people who need these services,” Kelly said. “You wouldn’t … There’s no reason you’d be dragging your feet if you didn’t have to. But you want to make sure that we’re providing the right services at the right time, every time and that it’s consistent.”
Commissioners, including Chair Shannon Reid, voiced support for getting it “right” and not hastily opening the TRC before it’s ready. But, Reid added, she also hears concerns from residents who are worried about “escalating crises they see in the community.”
“And that there’s a piece of the puzzle that we don’t have in place yet, entirely,” Reid said.
Although the center’s doors are not open to the public yet, the services the TRC will ultimately provide are available within the community’s crisis system, Tryanski told commissioners.
“So the crisis center is not open yet. There’s still some complexity to move through,” Tryanski said. “But at the same time, Dr. Thompson’s team is serving people in the emergency department with that higher level of care. They are serving people at Bert Nash.”
Tryanski said the county’s new mobile crisis response team launched Sept. 11 in coordination with KSPHQ and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which also can be reached outside the 785 and 913 area codes, by dialing 785-841-2345. Peer support and case managers are on duty seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the eventual goal of 24/7 service. About 80% of crisis intervention calls, Tryanski said, should be resolved by phone.
During a ribbon-cutting celebration in June, community members toured the TRC with the anticipation the center would open by the end of the summer. They saw the center’s three service areas beginning with an access center where those in crisis can undergo an initial assessment. A 23-hour observation unit allows staff space to calm and stabilize patients as they formulate a treatment and recovery plan. And if community members need a few days to recover, they can receive around-the-clock-care in the center’s stabilization unit.
The recovery campus’s other two components — Transitions and the Cottages — focus on providing holistic care and social services support, including stable housing. They opened in 2021.
Funding for the recovery campus comes from a mix of sources, including a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in November 2018. Advocates campaigned for the campus as an alternative to the county jail for community members struggling with addiction and mental illness.
Sarah Plinsky, Douglas County administrator, said Bert Nash’s recent certification as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, or CCBHC, would affect the county’s system of crisis care funding-wise.
“We didn’t focus a lot on funding on this presentation today,” Plinsky said. “But the funding model for how this center will operate and be met, be funded has done a complete 180 in our planning model on how everything has come together.”
The County Commission will hear more about funding the county’s system of crisis care at its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19.