Kansas policy tightens Osawatomie admissions

Osawatomie-State-HospitalOSAWATOMIE, KAN: A new Kansas policy in response to federal threats against overcrowding at Osawatomie State Hospital has mental health workers worried that more patients could end up in jails instead of hospital beds.

The policy, initiated this week after federal regulators threatened to cut off Medicare and Medicaid funds to the hospital if it doesn’t fix overcrowding issues by Feb. 13, limits how many psychiatric patients can be admitted.

Osawatomie, which is licensed for 206 patient beds, gets about 20 percent of its budget from Medicare and Medicaid, The Kansas City Star reported.

Under the new policy, whenever the hospital is approaching capacity it no longer will accept any patients who voluntarily commit themselves for treatment. It will triage, based on their diagnosis, patients who are involuntarily committed because they pose a threat to themselves or others.

For those turned away, community mental health centers will be responsible for finding alternative sources of care.

That will leave many centers searching for resources that have grown increasingly scarce as more psychiatric facilities have closed, said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

“It’s a significant concern. They’re going to do their best to provide treatment,” he said. But patients “could be waiting for services in emergency rooms or jails. That’s the last thing we want.”

Osawatomie State Hospital is about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City and is one of two psychiatric hospitals operated by the state. For much of this year, the facility that serves the Kansas City area and much of the eastern half of the state has been running above capacity.

During an October inspection prompted by several complaints, inspectors found that the hospital was housing 258 patients – about 125 percent of its capacity.

Inspectors also discovered such poor medical care and miscommunication among doctors, nurses and administrators that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said patients’ health and safety were in immediate jeopardy.

CMS warned the hospital to correct those problems immediately or face loss of funding on Dec. 8. An inspection this week found those immediate life-threatening problems had been corrected.

Serious overcrowding issues that federal regulators considered unacceptable remained, and the hospital was told it had 90 days to clear up those problems or once again face loss of funding.

“Obviously, we need to up our game,” said Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. “These are systemic problems we have to address. We think these things will fall into place once we have a solid handle on the (hospital’s) census.”-PTI