In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection reported that suicide rates in Kansas were up 45% between 1999 and 2016, ranking Kansas 19th in the nation.

Only four states had higher increases in their suicide rates. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Office of Vital Statistics, eight people died of suicide in Riley County in 2017, the last year for which records are available.

Every spring, city and county commissions across the state solicit the budget requests of their departments and funded agencies for the coming year.

Pawnee Mental Health Services, a private not-for-profit licensed community mental health center and licensed substance use disorder treatment facility, serves the city of Manhattan and Riley County.

Pawnee receives county funding support due to the mental health public safety net function it serves in Riley County, similar to the respective public safety net functions of EMS, Law Enforcement and the Fire Department. Approximately 8.5% of Pawnee’s budget comes from the ten counties in which Pawnee serves this function.

Pawnee provided over $12.4 million in services to 7,480 unduplicated people in FY2018. Nearly $4.4 million was uncompensated for reasons such as limitations in health insurance benefits, bad debt and sliding fee assistance.

Pawnee provided nearly $3.5 million of services to 2,557 unduplicated Riley County residents and wrote off over $1.2 million of that. With Riley County’s annual funding of $265,120, Pawnee absorbed approximately $965,000 of these write offs.

The number of unduplicated people served in FY2018 grew by 487 over FY2017. Three hundred and ninety-six of these were new to Pawnee because of the Mental Health Co-Responder Program.

In 2017, in an attempt to better equip law enforcement officers to respond to the unmet mental health needs of individuals in the community, the Riley County Police Department and Pawnee joined together to create the Mental Health Co-Responder program. The mental health co-responder is an employee of Pawnee who works within the Riley County Police Department.

The position was received so well that a second mental health co-responder position was created along with a half-time mental health therapist in the jail. The co-responder positions were initially grant funded. All three positions are currently funded by the Riley County Law Board.

In 2018, Pawnee was awarded a $725,000 grant from the State of Kansas to open a Crisis Stabilization Center to provide 24 hour crisis stabilization services for adults. The Goldstein Foundation recently announced a $200,000 matching grant challenge which will help cover the start-up costs not covered by the grant.

This resource will fill a major gap in Riley County by diverting people away from jail and the hospital emergency room and into treatment.

The Lottery Vending Machine Bill, which was passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2017, and Medicaid, for those who have it, will provide an ongoing funding stream for the Crisis Stabilization Center.

State general fund dollars have been appropriated for Crisis Stabilization Centers in FY2019 and FY2020 until the lottery vending machines are in circulation and begin to generate revenue.

Pawnee has requested that Riley County increase its funding support in 2020 from $265,120 to $531,395 annually, which is about 35% of Pawnee’s total county funding budget. Roughly 34% of the people served by Pawnee are from Riley County, but Riley County’s funding support accounts for only about 26% of Pawnee’s total county funding budget.

Recent enhancements to the mental health public safety net in Riley County have been made possible largely because of new sources of funding to meet the needs of people in their most desperate state of mind.

With the alarming trend in the number of Kansans who are taking their own life and the increase in the number of people reaching out to Pawnee for help, it’s time for Riley County to enhance its mental health public safety net to better meet the needs of people before they reach their most desperate state of mind.

Robbin Cole

Executive Director

Pawnee Mental Health Services

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