Douglas County Commission approves agreement for Bert Nash to operate Treatment & Recovery Center

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Post last updated at 7:56 p.m. Wednesday, April 5:

Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday approved a lease and agreement with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center to operate the Treatment and Recovery Center.

Though the agreement has been months in the making, it was only finished at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Commissioners took a 20-minute executive session (meaning they met behind closed doors) to discuss the agreement with county counsel since they hadn’t had time to review it. The agreement had not yet been made publicly available when the commission voted unanimously to approve it.


With Wednesday’s vote, county and Bert Nash staff members are hopeful that the center will enter its first opening phase effective Monday, April 10.

The TRC, at 1000 W. Second St., held a ribbon cutting celebration to give the public a first glimpse at the facility in June 2022. Its opening has been complicated by operations changing handsturnover in leadership, delays at the state level as the state transitions to a new mental health care model and more.

According to a presentation slide that Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, shared on Wednesday, opening Phase 1 includes:

The TRC will be open 7 days a week, regardless of holiday schedules.
Urgent Care will receive community walk-ins from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Patients will be seen by a provider within one hour of arrival at the facility.
Bert Nash intakes will be completed at the TRC.
Bert Nash will have a written plan for follow-up communication and care coordination with outside providers.
Patients seen at the TRC will be able to return to the TRC for follow-up care as needed.
Bert Nash will have a mechanism in place to track and report time to follow-up appointments.
Bert Nash will track and provide monthly data reports to the county, including time to first appointment, referrals, and/or return/follow-up at TRC Urgent Care.

Tryanski provided a detailed presentation on subsequent opening phases to the commissioners at their March 22 meeting; read more about that and see the slides at this link.

The agenda stated that the agreement is at a cost to the county not to exceed $1.6 million in 2023. The county’s costs are anticipated to increase to $2.8 million in 2024.

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said the county is anticipating that about $7.2 to $7.7 million more will come from funding from Bert Nash’s transition to a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, or CCBHC, model, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), private insurance and more. The center’s estimated expenditures come to a total of just more than $8.8 million in 2023, and $10.4 million in 2024.

County counsel John Bullock said the operating agreement would be made available to the public after the commission approved it and once it is executed. Commissioner Karen Willey asked to clarify what the draft agreement commissioners received meant by “execution ready.” Plinsky said staff needed to gather all the attachments, because there were several, but Bullock said the words of the agreement would remain the same.

Plinsky also said staff anticipated bringing a KDADS agreement back to the commission within a few weeks, so that was a part of the agreement that would not be signed Wednesday.

Commissioners all expressed how glad they were to see the agreement come to fruition. Commissioner Patrick Kelly said opening the TRC was “way overdue,” and that there was pressure to get it open.

Kelly said he was confident in Plinsky’s ability to evaluate the contract and determine that it meets the commission’s expectations, and although the commission hadn’t had time to review the full agreement as of Wednesday, “we have been very involved.”

“We’ve had a number of executive sessions on very specific parts of it,” he said. “We’ve had lots of meetings and, you know, two weeks ago we were here and had a fairly lengthy meeting about what parts of the contract, and we had a chance to ask questions about it. So I’m feeling comfortable with authorizing Sarah (Plinsky) to to sign the contract.”

Willey and Commissioner Shannon Reid agreed.

The topic has drawn significant numbers of community members wishing to provide public comment in recent months, but on Wednesday it drew just one. Belinda Davis spoke on behalf of Justice Matters, thanking all involved for working to make the agreement happen.

“We want to thank and celebrate everyone from Bert Nash, county staff, counsel, the commissioners for their commitment to work together to finalize this lease and operating agreement that will allow the TRC to open,” Davis said. “We are well aware of the long hours and the endless meetings that have occurred to get to this point. We recognize that there may be some challenges along the way, but we also have faith that you will find a way to resolve them in a timely fashion, and we look forward to the success of the TRC and the people you will serve.”

Reid said she recognized that it has been a long road to get to this point. She said she thought the process over the past six to nine months of due diligence “will be fundamentally beneficial to all of us; that we will have mechanisms in place and mutual trust that’s been built and strengthened, that will allow us to meet those challenges and figure out together what resources we have to pull on and what opportunities are in front of us to course correct along the way.

“I think that’s what a good process does,” she said, “and I think that’s what accountability looks like.”

Willey said personal and moral support for the staff of the TRC will be important, too.

“It’s new work, it’s hard work. It’s really difficult,” she said. “… It’s not just a question of holding accountable; it’s also a question of, what is our responsibility to the folks that we’ve asked to step up to this work? So I call on everyone to participate with that.”

The lease was added to the agenda ahead of the meeting:


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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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