Despite conflict, collaborators in Behavioral Health Partners will not change board’s makeup

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Post updated at 6:07 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27:

The leader of the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County said in a news release Thursday the makeup of the board that oversees the center will remain in place.


Behavioral Health Partners’ nine-member board will stay composed of three appointments each from LMH Health, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the Douglas County Commission. During the Oct. 19 Douglas County Commission meeting, commissioners discussed the board’s structure and said they would like to hear more from BHP’s board members.

Commissioner Patrick Kelly questioned whether the board’s structure, set by the commission in 2020, had contributed to tension within. Specifically, Kelly said he thought top leadership from LMH Health and Bert Nash’s board participation had led to some of that tension.

“BHP’s governance structure was specifically designed to ensure strong partnerships between LMH, (Bert Nash Center), and Douglas County government, and BHP is prepared to collaboratively carry out the clinical, administrative, and governing tasks required to successfully operate Douglas County’s crisis center,” said Dr. George Thompson, medical director and executive director of the Treatment and Recovery Center (TRC), in the release.

BHP was established in 2020 by LMH Health and Bert Nash as a nonprofit organization to manage and operate the TRC. Three board seats are “vacant and awaiting nominations from each of the three partners within the next few weeks,” Thompson said. The remaining six members of the board of directors are:

  • Cindy Yulich, chair
  • Nancy Thellman, vice chair
  • Jason Hess, treasurer
  • Patrick Schmitz
  • Dr. Ashley Bloom
  • Kevin Harrell

The secretary position, previously filled by Janette Kirkpatrick of LMH Health, is one of the vacant positions. Rebecca Smith, spokesperson for LMH Health, said in an email Thursday afternoon that Kirkpatrick no longer works there and Russ Johnson, president and CEO of LMH Health, had attended BHP meetings recently in Kirkpatrick’s stead.

“Janette departed LMH for another career opportunity mid-month, and Russ attended a couple of recent meetings as her proxy. As I understand it, BHP will now fill Janette’s spot permanently,” Smith said.

Bert Nash CEO Patrick Schmitz remains on the BHP board.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Dr. George Thompson, medical director and executive director of the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County, speaks at the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 23, 2022. At left is Patrick Schmitz, CEO of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

Thompson said LMH Health appointed Kirkpatrick, Thellman and Bloom; the Douglas County Commission had appointed Hess and Yulich; and Bert Nash appointed Schmitz and Harrell.

“The BHP Board recognizes that BHP and the TRC need to step into their own identity and governance in a way that supports the patients that the TRC will serve,” Board Chair Cindy Yulich said in the release. “With this in mind, LMH, (Bert Nash Center), and County leadership have all agreed that, while they will continue to nominate members to the BHP Board, they are committed to helping BHP gain the independence needed to exert its own authority and resolve its own challenges.”

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said Thursday morning an opening date had not yet been set for the TRC, but when the date was determined, the center’s opening could be phased in operation-wise.

“There’s a number of agreements that have to be put in place that we’re still working on,” Plinsky said. “The BHP board is spending some time really determining how its structure should be managed. And trying to rework some of that, that all impacts the operating agreement and the lease. So I think it is soon, but I would be really reluctant to give a date.”


She emphasized services that will be eventually housed at TRC are now in place at LMH Health and Bert Nash.

BHP has hired and trained 43 staff members to work at the TRC, Thompson’s statement said, noting that “in the past six months, the BHP Board and TRC staff have made enormous progress” toward their goal of successfully operating the center.

On Oct. 17, Johnson and Schmitz released separate statements announcing concerns that county leadership had indicated interest in contracting with an out-of-state, for-profit organization for management of the TRC.

Plinsky responded in a statement Oct. 19 that missed details and deadlines by BHP had led her in September to notify LHM Health, Bert Nash and BHP leadership she planned to recommend Connections Health Solutions “be brought in to augment our local partnerships to ensure the TRC could open and operate successfully.”

No formal recommendation has been presented to commissioners for a vote.

“Once staff prepares a recommendation, the commission makes the decision,” Plinsky said. “And even after that, we are still working to implement and shape our work in the community.”

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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