High Plains Mental Health Center hoping for millions in grant funding to help with service

Blaise Mesa
Hays Daily News
Walt Hill, executive director of the High Plains Mental Health Center, delivered comments on Monday as part of an annual report to the Ellis County Commission.

Grant funding could bring around $7 million in funding to increase service level in mental health resources in the coming years. 

“I have been around about 40 years,” Walt Hill, executive director of the High Plains Mental Health Center, told the Ellis County Commission Monday. “I don’t get excited about much, except this is one of the most exciting things I have ever seen in my career in mental health.” 

Hill said they applied for a two-year grant that can bring $4 million to establish certified community behavioral health centers. Those centers can bring more services to people out in the community, more services to veterans and schools. Hill said they are working with the state to see how Medicaid can sustain those services. He also said they applied for another $1.5 million grant for two years. This could bring in 20 more staff members. 

Hill also said people continue to struggle with inpatient psychiatric care ability. He said the state hospital reduced the number of beds available leading to fewer admissions, which prompts law enforcement to hold patients until more room is free. 

“They are basically being boarded in emergency rooms, pending admission to Larned State Hospital sometimes for two or three days,” he said. “It’s a major issue for law enforcement. It’s a major issue for HaysMed.” 

Hill delivered these comments as part of an annual report to the commission. He said telemedicine was a major part of service in 2020, with around 95% of patients being treated online at several points in the year. The High Plains Mental Health Center surveyed 800 patients to see if they enjoyed that method of treatment. 

Of the responses, around 33% preferred telemedicine, around 33% were comfortable with either online and in-person treatment, and around 33% wanted to return to in-person treatment. All the center's staff returned to the office as of April 1. 

“It is really becoming an accepted model across the country,” he said.