With Few Options, Nursing Homes Forced to Serve as ‘Midway Outposts’ for Mental Health Care

In the state of Kansas, nursing homes have fallen into the position of serving as part of the mental health care system, amid a dearth of care options for those in need of such services, according to a Monday report by Kansas News Service.

“The nursing homes serve as sort of a midpoint between state mental hospitals for people with the most serious problems and community mental health centers for those who need far less help,” the outlet reported. “Those midway outposts in state’s mental health care system — privately owned, taxpayer-funded — have long been a source of concern.”

Out of the more than 600 residents in 10 nursing facilities for mental health, half were surveyed for a report from the Disability Rights Center of Kansas. That report found that 70% wanted to leave and find what support they required outside the facilities.

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One attorney — who worked with a resident to move him out of a facility owned by Topeka-based Midwest Health — noted that some of the biggest issues are related to coordinating local services within communities.

“That’s one of our biggest issues,” Kip Elliot, an attorney with the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, told Kansas News Service. “Community supports, what people need, housing. It’s just not there.”

SNN left a message with the administrator of Midwest Health’s Valley Falls, Kan., facility, which was not returned as of press time.

The report from the Disability Rights Center of Kansas argued that the state underfunded community mental health centers between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal 2017, while increasing funding for the 10 nursing facilities for mental health from fiscal 2007 to fiscal 2020.

Kansas Health Care Association (KHCA) president and CEO Cindy Luxem pushed back on the report’s characterization of the nursing facilities as “warehouses.”

The KHCA is the local chapter of the American Health Care Association, a national trade group that represents for-profit nursing homes.

“These are people’s homes,” she told Kansas News Service. “They have no place else to go.”

There are not enough community-based services at present to take the people in the facilities, she told the publication. She also noted that caregivers and family members might not have the same views as the residents surveyed who wished to leave, given that some of the issues are connected to substance abuse.

Kansas is pursuing a waiver that would permit Medicaid funding to flow into mental health nursing homes, which currently are not eligible for federal Medicaid matching dollars. That could bolster programs that offer job assistance or other services to help people move out, Kansas News Service noted. And other recent policy changes mean Medicaid funding could be used for necessary housing services.

Mission Health Communities oversees five of the nursing facilities for mental health in the state, and vice president Shawn Sullivan told Kansas News Service that the issues have to be dealt with system-wide.

While improvements — such as a greater focus on discharge planning and preparing residents with life skills — are needed, they need housing, he told the publication.

“It’s just not there in a lot of parts of the state,” he told Kansas News Service. “And the places where there is affordable housing, then there may not be the services.”

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