Douglas County Chief Addresses Issues Surrounding Treatment and Recovery Center Management; commissioners call for community collaboration – The Lawrence Times

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Details and missed deadlines regarding the management of the Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center led the county administrator to consider hiring an out-of-state, for-profit management company to help local officials. behavioral health nonprofit, she said.

On Monday, executives from LMH Health and the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center released statements about the county’s interest in contracting with Connections Health Solutions, a for-profit management organization that received $30 million in growth funding for a healthcare-focused private equity firm in 2021.

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At the Douglas County Commission meeting on Wednesday, County Administrator Sarah Plinsky read a statement outlining her concerns about the county’s alliance with Behavioral Health Partners Inc., the county’s nonprofit partnership with LMH Health and Bert Nash.

Plinsky told the commissioners that a contractual agreement with BHP specified that the TRC would open by July 1. This deadline, and several others, however, were missed.

The contract agreement itself, Plinsky said, expired at the end of February, but the county did not receive a draft from BHP to extend the contract until three months later.

Plinsky said BHP still hasn’t submitted the county’s TRC budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year; this budget is needed to obtain public funding of $3.1 million to operate the TRC.

“I understand that budget is being worked on, and I know it’s being worked on, but today I don’t have it,” she said.

And although licensing was considered a top priority by TRC management a year ago, Plinsky said, BHP has not resolved licensing hurdles with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability. Services (KDADS) between July 2021 and February 2022.

Dr. George Thompson, Medical Director and Executive Director of TRC, presented the licensing schedule at the commission’s Oct. 12 meeting. He said since March, local leaders have been working with KDADS to resolve licensing issues related to the lack of state regulation for crisis response centers.

Cara Sloan-Ramos, spokesperson for KDADS, confirmed Thursday afternoon that BHP applied for its interim private mental hospital license on July 12. The license is valid from October 17 to June 30, 2023.

“I want to remind the commission that since September 2021, the county has provided LMH and Bert Nash with over $1 million for the development and opening of the TRC,” Plinsky said.

“Over the summer, it was clear to me that in addition to the clinical and operational steps that needed to be taken, many of the legal agreements between LMH, Bert Nash, BHP and the county were not even in process. elaboration.”

Plinsky said she informed BHP management on August 1 of her concerns, including whether the group would be able to operate the center successfully. Plinsky called for an “achievable, executable and realistic” plan by September 1, along with a to-do list.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times The Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center, pictured on Tuesday

When the county received that plan on Aug. 23, she said, the documents were “inconsistent, incomplete and demonstrated that BHP was not ready to successfully open and operate the center,” so the county consulted legal counsel – Foulston Siefkin LLP, of Wichita, a company with experience in healthcare.

BHP also asked for an extension and additional funding, Plinsky said, and that put it in a tough spot.

“Douglas County has an obligation to open the TRC,” Plinsky said. “The sales tax funds used to build and operate the center came to Douglas County. State funding to operate the TRC is coming to Douglas County. LMH Health has no such obligation. Bert Nash does not have this obligation.

Plinsky has told commissioners since September 1 that “substantial progress has been made” and that “agreements and action steps that have been delayed for months have been accelerated.”

She said her intention was for TRC to operate with local staff provided by Thompson. She called Connections a “collective role model” of integrative crisis care for the TRC, and noted that Douglas County leaders have visited its facilities in Arizona.

But Plinsky disagreed with claims that Connections’ involvement with the TRC paralleled efforts in 2020 by LMH Health to partner with a national company to oversee hospital and emergency services. After community opposition, this plan stalled.

“In this situation, the department wishes to supplement local expertise with national expertise. Do not replace,” she said.

Plinsky said no recommendations were submitted to the commission, leaving open the possibility that BHP could still retain its leadership position on the project.

Commissioners expressed their support for Plinsky and stressed the need for community collaboration.

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Commissioner Karen Willey said she has faith in Thompson and his leadership. She questioned some of the posts shared in the community on behalf of BHP.

“I am also disturbed to see other entities claiming to speak on behalf of BHP in the media in ways that they are not entitled to, but which are also directly inconsistent with the ongoing and frequent conversations I have with Dr. Thompson and the BHP Board of Directors. members,” Willey said.

In an email, Thompson said he would provide more information on BHP’s board at a later date. The board is made up of representatives appointed by LMH Health, Bert Nash and Douglas County.

“I plan to send out a press release soon to introduce the Behavioral Health Partners community to who we are and what we do.” said Thompson. “Our plan is to continue to work closely with Sarah Plinsky to open the TRC as soon as possible. I have nothing else to add at this time. »

Commissioner Patrick Kelly said he would like to know more about the BHP board and wondered if its construction by the commission two years ago could have put him on the path to tension within its structure.

Kelly urged stakeholders to come together. Although Plinsky has not yet made a recommendation or proposal to the commission to contract outside of Douglas County, the community may need to consider it. You need to have a lot more conversation, he said.

“I think as a community we need to think about our allegiance to local support,” Kelly said. “It is my aspiration – I want to be very clear here – my aspiration for the treatment and recovery center to be locally governed and operated. But we may not be there yet, we may need to grow and build capacity. I don’t think that means we’re bad. I don’t think that means we’re weak, or anything. I think that’s something we have to consider.

Commission President Shannon Reid said the project had required adjustments over time due to its evolving nature, and that integrated healthcare inherently involves “a spirit of collaboration”. She likened the behind-the-scenes process to a troubleshooting and workshop rather than an attempt to hide information from the public.

Representatives from LMH Health and Bert Nash had the opportunity Thursday morning to respond to Plinsky’s statement.

Russ Johnson, CEO of LMH Health, addressed recent tensions in an email response, but said questions about licensing, budgets and timelines should be directed to BHP.

“I know there were some frustrations in this project – it’s not unexpected when developing an innovative model in a complex environment,” Johnson said. “Yet the remarkable nature of this community collaboration is what makes the treatment and recovery center so successful, and that’s why LMH Health answered the county’s call to play a part in this important initiative.” At this time, our sole focus is to support BHP’s efforts to open the TRC as soon as possible, as this is best for our patients, their families and the community.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity journalist, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about his work for The Times here. Check out his staff biography here.

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Details and missed deadlines regarding the management of the Douglas County Treatment and Recovery Center led the county administrator to consider hiring an out-of-state, for-profit management company to help local officials. behavioral health nonprofit, she said.


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Douglas County commissioners agreed Wednesday to increase funding in support of the mobile team that responds to people in behavioral health crisis.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

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On Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will consider providing additional funding that would allow the county’s Mobile Response Team to increase its crisis response services to 18 hours a day and 24-hour coverage. , 7 days a week by May.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

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Two major players in the launch of Douglas County’s long-awaited treatment and recovery center expressed concerns Monday about the county’s interest in contracting a for-profit management company to oversee the center.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

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