Leaders of the Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center and the board that oversees its management will present plans in mid-December for a partial opening, as well as how they intend to fill the center’s vacant medical and executive director positions.
Sarah Bishop, spokesperson for Behavioral Health Partners Inc., said in an email Wednesday no additional details about the plans would be shared before the Douglas County Commission’s meeting Dec. 14.
“For the wellbeing of the TRC, it is important that we wait to share more detailed information on these plans until that date,” Bishop wrote. “We appreciate your understanding.”
The announcement that Dr. George Thompson had stepped down from the executive and medical director positions came from Bishop on Nov. 18. The news release read, “new interim leadership is already in place as well as a plan to permanently fill these positions by early 2023.”
On Nov. 21, we reached out to Bishop with follow-up questions that asked for more information about those plans, including how BHP and the county were working together to fill the medical and executive director positions, whether they would each be filled by an individual or combined, and anticipated salary information.
Meanwhile, three behavioral health leaders have filled the vacated roles on an interim basis.
Dr. Cord Huston, staff psychiatrist and director of the University of Kansas’ Adult Psychiatry Residency at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, was appointed by the BHP board to serve as interim medical director with backup support from Dr. Nana Dadson, chief medical officer for Bert Nash; Santana Taylor, director of operations at the TRC, shares executive leadership with the BHP board, according to the Nov. 18 news release.
One of three main components of the TRC, the Access Center, will be considered first for opening. It will serve children and adults, filling intake- and consultation-type needs for those experiencing crises in mental health and chemical use.
Most patients who visit the Access Center won’t receive services within the TRC beyond consultation, Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said during a tour of the center this fall. Instead, many will receive community-based referrals.
Plinsky also said at that time the center’s opening would likely be phased in, beginning with the Access Center. Other components include an Observation Unit for adults with a maximum stay of 23 hours, and a Stabilization Unit, also for adults who can receive services at the TRC for up to 72 hours.
A ribbon-cutting for the TRC took place more than five months ago, but the center has yet to open its doors. Plinsky said in October a contractual agreement with BHP specified the TRC would open its doors by July 1. That deadline and others, however, were missed.
The management of the TRC has been assigned to the nonprofit entity BHP — a local volunteer board. In October, questions surfaced about whether that responsibility would be transferred to Connections Health Solutions, an out-of-state, for-profit management company.
Douglas County behavioral health and government leaders have consulted with Connections since 2019. When asked on Nov. 22 how Thompson’s resignation might affect future management of the center, Plinsky said “the County Commission will continue to meet, discuss, and assess the readiness of the TRC as a part of our regular Wednesday meetings.”
Douglas County Commission meetings are typically held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Meetings were temporarily shifted to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center next door because of water damage in the historic building, but Plinsky told commissioners Wednesday that their Dec. 7 meeting was planned to be held at the courthouse.
More information about meetings can be found at this link.
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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.
Douglas County Treatment & Recovery Center will begin phased opening Monday
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