Saturday, July 13, 2024

Valeo, Third Judicial Court collaborate to start assisted outpatient mental health program

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Valeo Behavioral Health is working with Shawnee Co. to establish a program to help people struggling with mental health through the court system.

Valeo CEO, Bill Persinger, presented to Shawnee Co. Commissioners during a work session on Monday, June 17, a collaboration with the judicial system to develop an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program.

If a friend, family member, or law enforcement officer meets an individual suffering from a severe mental illness and they are concerned for their well-being or have a reason to believe they are a danger to themselves or others, the AOT program is considered an alternative way for the patient to receive a monitored and tailored treatment of care for a few weeks, days, even hours at Valeo instead of the state hospital.

Persinger says it takes a very high standard to strip a patient of their civil liberties and the AOT program would not lower that standard. He says it would allow a trained Valeo specialist to intervene and help an individual through the court system.

“Families and others have been asking for a long time. Gosh, my brother, my dad, my child, you know, my neighbor, you know, they are doing these things that really concern us, and we do screenings, and often brought by law enforcement or family and just find that we don’t really think there is probable cause to go and have a petition filed and all that kind of procedure happening. So, this gives us an alternative.”

They have the personnel and a courtroom in place for the program. However, they need funding to pay the lawyers needed to represent those in it.

“The one thing I cannot get funding for, and I have looked for grant funding is for legal counsel for these folks at those hearings,” said Kansas Chief Judge Steven R. Ebberts. “They have a right to have an attorney to represent them at the hearing, and the vast majority of them can’t afford to hire a lawyer. So, we appoint a lawyer for them, and we have lawyers [who] are on contract, but I do not have enough funding in my current budget to pay for the additional time the lawyers might be involved in these cases. To bring those lawyers up to parody with our other contract lawyers, it is about $153,000 — is what the court will need [to be] added to its budget.”

Kansas Chief Judge Steven R. Ebberts has offered to act as the judge who will help handle the program. Time and a courtroom will be dedicated to this program each month.

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