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JOCO audit highlights security issues, other concerns in mental health operation

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Above image credit: A new audit says that the Johnson County Mental Health Center has neglected to make security improvements at its Shawnee office (above). (File photo/The Hale Center for Journalism)
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2 minute read

The Johnson County Mental Health Center has not resolved long-standing security concerns to protect employees at its Shawnee location, according to an internal audit presented to the board of commissioners Thursday.

The audit, conducted by Interim County Auditor Ken Kleffner, said that the mental health agency had rejected security recommendations made in 2007 “because management wanted the facility to be more accessible to clients served.”

Agency officials, the audit said, should install glass enclosures around the reception area at the Shawnee facility — as is the case at the offices in Olathe and Mission. The agency should also do more to restrict the access of patients to various areas around the building, at 6440 Nieman Road.

Kleffner said in the audit that, during the fieldwork, staff experienced two lock-downs “to control known threats within the Shawnee facility or near the facility’s entrance.”

Management agreement

The audit said agency management concurred with the recommendation and that the interim director is working with the facilities department to make the needed modifications.

Officials told the commissioners that part of the problem with the Shawnee building is that the services in the building have changed from its initial function. County management also said that the facilities department had only recently become more involved with the mental health center, since it had handled its own capital needs in the past.

“I just want to say good job,” Commission Chairman Ed Eilert told Kleffner at the meeting. “I know the objectives are currently being worked on” by county staff.

The commission ordered the audit in the wake of controversy surrounding the center last year, when the embattled executive director resigned amid revelations that the agency was in dire financial condition.

County officials said earlier this year that the agency was beginning to turn things around.

Additional items

The auditors also said agency officials must:

  • Ensure implementation of standard operating procedures, including clearing up confusion among front-desk staff at the various locations about how to handle patients that refuse to pay.
  • Reduce employee turnover — in the previous two years productivity decline due to turnover cost the agency more than $450,000 in lost billable hours.
  • Increase employee productivity — total client billed hours decreased by nearly 30 percent in the past four years, as did the number of service providers.
  • Boost efforts to ensure that some of its uninsured clients apply for Medicaid coverage — about a quarter of the agency’s clients are uninsured.
  • Improve intake procedures for new clients, including updating procedures for determining a client’s ability to pay.

The audit also found that staff members at the center are consulting with other community mental health centers around the state to improve operations of its new electronic medical record system.

The report also amplified and clarified some findings from an outside review of the center conducted in November.

A second phase of the audit is coming, but the commission did not discuss a timetable at its meeting Thursday.

Candidate rejected

In other health news, the commission rejected a recommendation to appoint Dr. Allen Greiner of the University of Kansas Medical Center to be the Johnson County Health Officer.

Right-to-life advocates had protested the choice based on past testimony Greiner had given to state regulators in a license revocation proceeding for another doctor.

According to a briefing sheet from the county health department, state law requires that the county board of health have a physician serving in an advisory capacity.

The commissioners agreed to review a different candidate at its meeting next week.


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