Mentally ill in Kansas prisons more than double since 2006

From the Topeca-Capital Journal
Jan. 26, 2013

Brownback reallocates $10M for mental health initiative
By Tim Carpenter

Republican Sen. Steve Fitzgerald is convinced growth in the proportion of mentally ill Kansans in jails and prisons arcs back to the state’s failure to develop an effective community-based system of treatment.

His district includes Lansing Correctional Facility, which serves as one of the many repositories for people with mental health challenges beyond the capacity of local treatment providers. State psychiatric hospitals — Osawatomie State Hospital, Larned State Hospital and Rainbow Mental Health Facility — also are under duress.

In effect, Fitzgerald said, Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts is by default the provider of last resort for a growing cadre of people with mental illness.

“You have become responsible for dealing with our inability to address our mental health problems,” Fitzgerald said.

Roberts is well aware of the 126 percent increase in mentally ill prisoners in Kansas since 2006. Nearly two of five Kansas’ adult inmates are classified as mentally ill. Men and women on parole, with untreated mental deficiencies, often cycle through the criminal justice system.

“It’s one of the critical issues,” Roberts said.

In response to this corrections reality and following the December slaying of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn., Gov. Sam Brownback shelved plans to cut funding to the Kansas mental health network and announced he would redirect $10 million for a new mental health initiative.

“I am committed to strengthening this system and making it more effective,” Brownback said.

Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, is responsible for developing a program addressing the governor’s call for improved services to people most likely to wind up in a state hospital or behind bars.

He said $5 million would continue to be allocated to the state’s 27 community mental health centers.
The other half of the proposed funding would be dedicated to a half-dozen new regional recovery support centers assigned to work with adults and youths with repetitive hospital admissions or with frequent contact with law enforcement or the court system, he said.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said during a recent Senate hearing she was skeptical a regional approach would advance the objective of providing intensive case management of people with mental illness in each city and town.

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