Mon. May 29th, 2023

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Circumstances surrounding the arrest of a Hutchinson man accused of threatening mass violence against employees where he worked sheds light on some issues surrounding mental healthcare and access to help. Family of 24-year-old Andrew Patterson turned him in, leading to an arrest they said was in large part a result of an inability to get help for him as his mental health was deteriorating.

The situation has us asking how to go about access mental health services and getting those in need into available programs.

While more dialogue is dedicated to mental health than used to be the case, there can oftentimes be unknowns in how to respond.

“It seems like we all know what to do if somebody falls and breaks their arm, but nobody knows what to do if you see a mental health crisis instead of a physical health crisis,” said Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas Director of Development and Communications Eric Litwiller.

Litwiller said the first step is to know there are resources. But he acknowledged it can be challenging to convince someone they need help, so it’s important to keep communication open.

“Make sure that you’re inviting these folks to talk with you openly and honestly about what their struggles are and what they’re going through,” he said.

Litwiller said there are situations in which police need to intervene when it comes to situations in which someone may be having a mental health crisis. For other cases, he said there are different local tools with with co-responder programs including ICT-1 and crisis intervention teams. He said funding mental health services is a constant concern and generally, it’s for treatment, not prevention.

“A lot of our prevention services are based in our children’s area because that’s the age where we can often keep a mental health issue from turning into mental illness 10-15 years down the road,” LItwiller said.

A challenge in Kansas is having enough providers. The Rural Health Information Hub reports based on federal data. Most Kansas counties are experiencing a mental-health-professional shortage. Inpatient beds is another shortage. A state taskforce on mental health reported in 1990 that state hospitals had about 1,000 inpatient beds for adults. By 2018, that total was down to 256 beds. While a handful of beds have been added in the last year, the task force recommended state hospitals add more than 220 beds by the end of 2023.

“Typically, an inpatient facility is going to take care of you for not very long, often times its four, five, six days. Their main job oftentimes is to is to kind of get you stabilized,” Litwiller said.

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