The administration of Gov. Laura Kelly submitted a plan to the Kansas Legislature for lifting a moratorium on voluntary admissions to Osawatomie State Hospital imposed five years ago and to deepen the behavioral health services network across Kansas.

The limitation on admissions was imposed at the state hospital because patient safety was in jeopardy because of insufficient space and staffing. In April 2015, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said the hospital wasn’t doing enough to prevent suicidal patients from hanging themselves. The hospital was triple-bunking patients in rooms meant for two.

Laura Howard, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said ending the moratorium was linked to investment in expansion of the number of regional inpatient psychiatric hospital beds serving people with mental illness meeting criteria for state hospital admission and to increase the availability of crisis-intervention services in cities statewide.

“It’s time to make progress. It’s time to be able to move forward,” she said. “The plan to lift the moratorium is not just about buildings and bed space at OSH. The plan must be viewed in the context of capacity to serve Kansans with mental illness in communities across the state.”

The 2019 Legislature ordered the agency to return this session with a proposal to deal with the lingering moratorium and lack of patient capacity.

Osawatomie is the larger of two state-run inpatient facilities for adults with persistent mental illness.

She told the House Appropriations Committee the Kelly administration recommended a phased program that included $2 million to add 14 state licensed beds in the Adair Building at the Osawatomie hospital. The state also would spend $5.3 million to extensively remodel the hospital’s Biddle Building to meet federal certification standards to draw down Medicaid and Medicare funding. Eventually, Biddle would have 42 certified beds.

The agency also proposed the state convert 30 double-occupancy rooms in Adair to single-person rooms to better serve patients with complex challenges. This would leave Osawatomie with a total of 110 licensed beds and 72 certified beds for use by patients at the hospital.

“It’s really about what’s the best therapeutic environment, but also how can we best use those certified beds so we’re actually able to increase occupancy,” Howard said.

The governor’s budget recommendation to the Legislature included $5 million for contracts to expand the number of regional psychiatric beds serving people who would be eligible for a state hospital. Current inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities for adults are in Garden City, Hutchinson, Salina, Hillsboro, Topeka, Overland Park, Wichita and Kansas City, Kan.

“Adding this capacity regionally will help serve patients closer to their home communities,” Howard said. “The funding will be used to contract with providers to provide hospital bed space for adults and children.”

The state also has supported development of crisis stabilization services in Salina, Wichita, Manhattan, Topeka and Kansas City, Kan., but would like to further take pressure off state hospitals by expanding the offerings into Leavenworth, Hutchinson, Dodge City, Lawrence and Garden City.

In the future, Howard said, the agency would recommend tearing down some old buildings at the Osawatomie hospital.