As the President of KVC Hospitals, I felt compelled to respond to a recent article, “Suicidal, aggressive youth in crisis lose inpatient help; KVC closes those beds in Hays” published in the Hays Daily News on Oct. 21, 2019. My response is to ensure the facts are stated clearly and our community understands how KVC Hospitals has and will continue to provide great treatment to our youth.
In 2009, the state of Kansas recognized a lack of youth psychiatric services in western KS and was unable to identify a sustainable model for a stand-alone acute hospital. Their solution was to create an RFP for a dually-licensed, Class 1, psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF) to serve both short-term acute and longer-term residential patients. KVC Hospitals was awarded this contract in 2010.
This allowed us to combine staff and operational costs as youth in our acute and residential programs participated in separate treatment programs but same-gender youth were able to share bedrooms at night time.
Two years ago, the State mentioned the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) might discontinue dual licensing. At this point, KVC began discussions with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to determine if there was a solution that would satisfy new regulations, should that decision come to fruition. KVC was honest with KDADS and local stakeholders that if this new regulation was enacted, we would not be able to sustain a stand-alone acute unit.
Unfortunately, a solution could not be determined and in February 2019, KDADS told KVC that the CMS mandate was being enacted and by April 1, 2019, we had to operate completely separated units, effectively ending our shared operation model. The building upgrades necessary to comply with the new regulations could be in excess of $1 million and we would need continued funding to help us sustain overhead costs.
If Legislators could create a line item in the Governor’s budget, similar to funding provided for adult state psychiatric hospitals, that would assist with overhead costs and KVC would be open to exploring that as a sustainable operation.
As part of a greater state-wide solution, KVC opened a children’s psychiatric hospital in Wichita with 54 acute beds that can serve families in southwestern Kansas, due to many of these counties being nearly equal distance to Hays and Wichita. Additionally, we are transitioning KVC Hospitals Hays to an all-PRTF with plans to add beds for a total of 50 PRTF beds. There is a great need for more PRTF beds in the state with nearly 200 children on the waiting list for treatment. By opening acute beds in Wichita and adding PRTF beds in Hays, we will decrease the wait time Kansas children experience and continue to provide enhanced clinical services.
Our mission has always been to serve the most vulnerable children in Kansas, and we will continue to do so in Hays. However, we no longer have the option to do this with acute services due to changes from CMS and the state. While we do not agree with the changes to the dual licensed facility and are confident that for 10 years we have operated safely and effectively, we must adjust.
We have worked in the past, without payment at times and relying on private fundraising, to add more acute beds in Kansas City and Wichita at no cost to the state. We are hopeful all our efforts to add beds and services in Kansas will continue to show improvements for children in all communities.