Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Secretary Laura Howard announced today the agency has received a federal commitment of $4 million in grant funding to develop Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) services that will enhance outpatient treatment services for people with serious mental illness (SMI) in Kansas. The grant will make $1 million available annually for four years. The funds will support five AOT pilot sites to reduce the incarceration and/or hospitalization of people with SMI in their communities through court ordered outpatient treatment.

“Since day one, my administration has focused on improving services for Kansans who would be better served by treatment than incarceration,” Governor Kelly said. “Using what we learn from these pilot sites, we’re ready to work with state and local partners to develop guidelines to protect Kansans statewide and reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in jails or in hospitals.”

“This grant enhances partnerships with law enforcement, mental health services, courts, hospitals and other community services within the pilot site communities to get Kansans with SMI the help they need in their own communities,” KDADS Secretary Howard said. “The results of the project will inform recommendation to the Kansas Legislature on ways to improve Assisted Outpatient Treatment in Kansas.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation, awarded the grant to fund Kansas’ AOT pilot project in five regions and key communities across the state.

“KDADS is excited to be able to implement this grant in Kansas and expand opportunities for Kansans to receive community treatment instead of being admitted to state hospitals for institutional treatment,” KDADS Behavioral Health Services Commissioner Andy Brown said. “Our goals to work with local courts and CMHCs to reduce both incarcerations and involuntary hospitalizations for people with serious mental illness will be advanced with this funding from SAMHSA.”

This four-year SAMHSA program is intended to implement and evaluate new AOT programs and identify evidence-based practices in order to reduce the incidence and duration of psychiatric hospitalization, homelessness, incarcerations, and interactions with the criminal justice system while improving the health and social outcomes of individuals with an SMI. This program is designed to work with courts to allow these individuals to obtain treatment while continuing to live in the community and their homes.

The intent of the Kansas AOT Project is to create five pilot sites in Kansas to establish process and procedure in support of modification of involuntary commitment laws and transition to the AOT model. The pilot sites include the Kansas counties of Cowley, Douglas, Ellis, Ford and Riley. In a recent report card from the Treatment Advocacy Center, several gaps were identified in Kansas’s current laws – no explicit criteria for psychiatric deterioration, the treatment plan is not shared with the court, duration of initial order is not long enough, duration of continued order is not long enough, and there is no court monitoring of voluntary settlement agreements. These gaps will be addressed during the project through the pilot sites. The result of the pilot project will be recommendations to the Kansas Legislature to amend statutes to support a permanent AOT program in Kansas.

What Community Partners Are Saying

Greg Hennen, MS, MHA, Executive Director, Four County Mental Health Center, Inc. “Four County Mental Health Center, Inc. is excited to hear about the Assisted Outpatient Treatment initiative and our inclusion in the pilot site activity. This model fits well with the mission and purpose of our newly developed Assertive Community Treatment program and we believe our ACT team could be a key partner in this needed effort.”

Sherrie Vaughn, Executive Director, NAMI Kansas

“NAMI Kansas is excited for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) through these awarded SAMHSA grant funds. This SAMHSA award and the AOT program will help meet two of NAMI Kansas’s most urgent goals: reducing homelessness and decreasing incarceration rates for people with mental illness. AOT services and these grant funds are a win for both human rights and social justice, allowing NAMI Kansas and others vested in mental health treatment and services to continue to work hard improving the lives of people with lived experience of mental illness in Kansas.”

Bill Carr, Ford County Sherriff

“I’m elated for the opportunity to work with our Mental Health professionals in Ford County on the Kansas Assisted Outpatient Treatment Project. We have a shortage of mental health professionals and a need for expanded treatment for many incarcerated individuals within our facility.”

Lisa Southern, Executive Director, Compass Behavioral Health (serving Ford County)

“Compass Behavioral Health is excited for every opportunity to expand our services to meet the needs of our community. Funding new services is generally our greatest challenge and this opportunity has removed this barrier. Let’s do this!”

Patrick Schmitz, Chief Executive Officer, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center

“This is very exciting news for Douglas County. We look forward to being part of this pilot project, which aligns with the Bert Nash Center’s values of compassion, integrity, and equity, on a foundation of hope. Furthermore, the goals and objectives of this project will serve to help us better fulfill our mission of responding to needs, restoring lives and building a healthy community.”