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Here's where Sedgwick County plans to build a 50-bed psychiatric hospital

Wichita Eagle - 1/26/2024

Jan. 26—Construction of a 50-bed psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of southwest Wichita could be completed by 2026.

The Sedgwick County Commission voted unanimously Friday morning during a special meeting to move forward with acquiring 11 acres at the northwest corner of MacArthur and Meridian for the project.

The land is being donated by local real estate broker and investor Jeff Lange through his community foundation. Lange Realty is Sedgwick County's on-call real estate agent.

"I'm excited this day is here," Commissioner David Dennis said.

"A lot of people came together for this today so that we can finally say yes, we are going to have a regional mental health hospital in Sedgwick County."

Selection of the southwest Wichita site was made at the recommendation of a committee made up of Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and Sedgwick County staff.

"Selecting a site lets us move forward with the design process and allows us to have a more focused conversation with residents and a discussion with stakeholders about incorporating state hospital services into what is already available in Sedgwick County and the region as a whole," KDADS Deputy Secretary of Hospitals and Facilities Scott Brunner said in a press release.

Three other possible sites across the county made the short list, including the former Riverside Hospital complex in Wichita and properties in Bel Aire and Park City.

"In conversations, I've heard there are concerns of where this could be located in general," Commissioner Sarah Lopez said.

She said now that a site has been selected, the county should hold a town hall in the area to answer residents' questions and "give them a true idea of what this is going to look like."

Sedgwick County, which is responsible for construction, has secured $40 million in state funds to pay for the facility. It will be operated by the state like Kansas' other two psychiatric hospitals in Osawatomie and Larned.

Half of the beds in the new facility will be dedicated to acute in-patient care and the other half will be for people charged with crimes who need to be evaluated for competency to stand trial.

A special legislative committee in Topeka recommended expanding the facility to 100 beds, but Sedgwick County has said doing so would require more than the $40 million allocated for the project.

"We've been discussing on the advisory panel how big this hospital's going to be, whether it's going to be 50 or 100 beds, and we're looking at the design now where it's 50 beds but it has the support staff for 100, and then we're trying to figure out, can we go to 100 now?" Lopez said.

"Because this land is donated, it saves us money that we can put into potentially expanding this right off the bat."

Once the land acquisition is finalized, next steps will include developing architectural plans and awarding a construction contract.

Brunner said last month that he expects construction to begin in late 2024 or early 2025.

This story was originally published January 26, 2024, 11:05 AM.


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