By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
The need for mental health services in Seward County has not diminished, but with the recent closing of the psychiatric unit at Southwest Medical Center, many now face the challenge of finding help.
Liberal’s Southwest Guidance Center is now assisting with finding ways to help meet those needs. Director Jim Karlan said he and others have met with SWMC officials about the closing of the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services and the impact that could have on the guidance center’s services.
“We’ve concluded that we could make a smooth transition of persons who desire to receive treatment here at the Southwest Guidance Center,” he said. “We could make a smooth transition of those people over to our services.”
Karlan said this addresses both psychotherapy and medication management services.
“People, of course, will make their own choices of where they want to receive treatment, but for those who wish to receive treatment over here, we will be able to accommodate them,” he said.
Karlan said hospital personnel have been quite cooperative in the matter.
“I asked for some data statistics,” he said. “We discussed the number of people that are possibly involved knowing that some people will choose to go some place else, to private practitioners in town or elsewhere. Those who wish to receive services over here, we feel confident that we can accommodate their needs.”
Karlan said cases are opening and closing all the time. At this time, there are about 450 open and active mental health cases at SWGC, and he is projecting the guidance center will serve as many as 900 to 950 people this year.
“That’s those people who receive medication, those people who receive psychotherapy and also people who might be in various groups we have here at the Southwest Guidance Center,” he said.
The guidance center is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation and a free standing community health center.
“We are licensed by the state of Kansas to provide mental health services in a four-county service area – Seward, Meade, Stevens and Haskell County,” Karlan said. “We are licensed by the state of Kansas as one of 27 community mental health centers in the state.”
Karlan said there are private licensed mental health practitioners in town, and people do have a choice in where to find care.
“They can come to the community mental health center, or they can go to a private practitioner of their choice, either in town or some place out of town.”
As for how many of the patients served by the psych unit at SWMC will be served by the guidance center, Karlan said he is unsure at this time, and so are local doctors.
“It really is up to the client’s choice,” he said. “The clients will be made aware that we are able and willing to accept them into service, but they have the right to choose to come here or to anyone else to fulfill their mental health needs. Right now, we really don’t know how many people will be entering services here. It’s really strictly each person’s choice.”