Wichita will host a new 50-bed adult psychiatric facility that will address a critical need for mental health services in Kansas.
A long-sought-after new mental health hospital in the Wichita region received a boost recently. State officials approved in late December the allocation of $15 million to support the construction of a 50-bed hospital.
The proposed hospital would help relieve the strain on the state’s two mental health hospitals: Larned State Hospital in western Kansas and Osawatomie State Hospital in northeast Kansas. It also would enable some patients from the Wichita area to be closer to their families.
The state once operated four mental health facilities. It closed Topeka State Hospital in 1997 and Winfield State Hospital in 1998. The original plan was to shift funding to community mental health centers, but that didn’t happen.
Many people suffering from mental illnesses end up in the Sedgwick County Jail. Because the state hospitals are at capacity, inmates have to wait, on average, about five months before they are transferred.
Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph also has been overwhelmed by the mental health patients and their needs. People with severe mental health issues often are dropped off at the Emergency Department at St. Joe, whether or not there are available beds in the hospital.
Sedgwick County requested an additional $25 million for the project from the state committee in charge of disbursing federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Wichita-area lawmakers also want the hospital designed so it could be expanded, if needed.
No location has been selected for the hospital. County officials estimate it would take about two years to build the hospital.
“Right now, our largest mental health hospital is our jail, and that’s just unacceptable,” Sedgwick County Commissioner Sarah Lopez told the Wichita Eagle. “… Allowing at least 50 more beds with the potential of more to come will be an incredible asset to not just Sedgwick County but our entire region and our state.”