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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Needs growing, funding shrinking at Guidance Center

  • The executive director of the three-county community mental health center headquartered in Leavenworth said Monday that the center is seeing increases to patient loads at the same time that funding is shrinking.
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  • The executive director of the three-county community mental health center headquartered in Leavenworth said Monday that the center is seeing increases to patient loads at the same time that funding is shrinking.
    Keith Rickard gave an annual presentation on the Guidance Center to the Leavenworth County Commission. He said since the center, which serves Leavenworth as well as Jefferson and Atchison counties, has seen the number of patients expand from about 2,800 about a decade ago to more than 5,000 currently.
    “That's not just in Leavenworth, Atchison and Jefferson County,” he said. “That's statewide and nationwide ― the number of people seeking services for mental health and substance abuse is really growing exponentially.”
    Rickard offered a couple of reason for that growth ― from the reduction of the stigma attached to seeking help for mental illness to the economic recession, which drove more patients to the Guidance Center's safety-net clinics.
    “It's a good thing that people are asking for help, it's a good thing that we're able to provide it,” he said.
    But with the new flux of patients has not come an increase in funding for the operations at the center. Because the Guidance Center is a community mental health center as designated in state law, Rickard said the facility must provide services regardless of a patient's ability to pay, leaving it susceptible to the number of write-offs.
    He said the center made $400,000 less in revenue in 2012 than in 2011 and it's likely that the state will cut about $10 million from its community mental health center grants this year, resulting in about $183,000 in grants lost for the Guidance Center.
    “We continue to manage,” he said. “It's always my goal, Jerry's (McDonald, Guidance Center finance director) goal, the board's goal to balance the budget no matter what available funds we have.”
    For the most part, he said the center has not yet had to decrease its services, with one exception.
    “Services to clients who only want medication management services,” he said.
    That's because those clients tend not to keep appointments, for one thing, Rickard said.
    “Also, we believe that medication isn't the only answer in a majority of clients seeking services,” he added. “We want them engaged in other activities, as well.”
    He said there are currently no waiting lists for service at the Guidance Center. But Rickard added further reductions in service are not out of the question as state funding continues to shrink.
    “It's difficult in our work to provide less than what someone needs,” he said. “To bring someone in and say 'here's you diagnosis, here's your treatment plan, but we're only going to deliver 50 percent.' Then we have an ethical concern.”
    Page 2 of 2 - One of the areas that Guidance Center and other community mental health centers will be moving into is training their communities in what he called “mental health first aid.” That means offering training to the community in ways to recognize and encourage those struggling with mental illness to seek help.
    “The best thing we can do is train the community,” he said.

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