Editorials

Make Kansas mental health facility in Osawatomie safer

Topeka is under a lot of financial pressure, including $3 million in federal safety requirements to rehab Osawatomie State Hospital.
Topeka is under a lot of financial pressure, including $3 million in federal safety requirements to rehab Osawatomie State Hospital.

The state of Kansas, which has allowed conditions at the Osawatomie State Hospital to deteriorate shamefully, must spare no expense in upgrading the facility and providing good care to patients.

Safety matters even if the $3 million price tag places further stress on the Kansas budget.

The upgrades are to bring the psychiatric hospital into federal compliance to prevent patient injuries, suicides and overcrowding.

State officials have to comply with federal safety standards to keep the mental health facility open. Medicare and Medicaid funds comprise about a quarter of the hospital’s budget of $26 million.

“Closing Osawatomie State Hospital is not an option,” said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which operates the facility. An agreement with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allowed for needed improvements to be made in stages through September 2017.

They include new light fixtures, stainless steel mirrors, tamper-resistant screws, bathroom fixtures, patient beds and ceilings. One goal is to remove items that can be used for choking, hanging or turned into weapons.

Questions remain about how conditions at the hospital were allowed to decay. But patient safety, even in the current budget crisis, is non-negotiable. Lawmakers must figure out how to pay the bills.

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