HUTCHINSON (AP) — Kansas officials dealing with youth in the local court system are concerned about trends in mental health treatment following a drastic change last year in state juvenile justice laws.
A pressing issue for officials is the often monthslong wait to get care for youth needing inpatient psychiatric treatment, the Hutchinson News reported .
Troubled teenagers waiting for treatment in Kansas are being sent back home pending placement, which tends to worsen mental health and behavioral issues that initially landed them in court.
The growing wait times are a result of a 2017 law meant to divert the costs of keeping juveniles locked up to pay for treatment they need to stay out of jail.
But community mental health officials said they aren't seeing much of the $40 million in savings coming back from the state to pay for services.
"Senate Bill 367 took away the ability to hold children who are dangerous to themselves in any kind of facility other than an actual psychological kind of facility," said Patricia Macke Dick, chief district judge for Reno County. "It used to be a danger to self or others, but they took out the part about a danger to self, replacing it with danger to property or others."
Reno County Community Corrections is assigned more than a dozen new youth to supervise so far this year, pushing the total number under intensive supervision to about 30.
Director Randy Regehr said that about half the juvenile population participates in mental health services, and that many youth have to wait months to be placed in a treatment facility.
"Think about that," he said. "If you think about your own kids and what's going on. Waiting three months, what are the chances you're going to lose that kid in that amount of time?"