Planned healthcare facility and education in Wichita area receive millions in state funding

Efforts to address health care needs in south-central Kansas (physical and mental) received a significant infusion of state funds.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 8:31 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Efforts to address health care needs in south-central Kansas (physical and mental) received a significant infusion of state funds. Governor Laura Kelly on Wednesday announced $15 million for the joint Wichita State-KU biomedical campus. A planned state hospital in Sedgwick County will receive $25 million. Funds are available through federal COVID relief dollars.

The projects are different but feed into a larger goal of meeting the needs of healthcare talent and resources. The millions in funding is a key step to move the biomedical campus and state hospital projects to fruition.

With the hospital project, Sedgwick County leaders are eager to move forward with creating a state-run, 50-bed mental health facility within the county.

“We’re the biggest city, we’ve got the biggest issue,” Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis said, referring to Wichita.

Dennis has been working on the effort to make the state hospital vision become a reality for the last six years. He said a local hospital with a mental-health focus allows patients to get the care they need without taking them away from family.

“We want to make sure that we can serve them as well as we can, and by keeping them locally, we can have a lot of support that they would lose if we take them (a) two-to-three-hour drive away to Larned,” Dennis said.

He said a local facility could also help ease pressure on the Sedgwick County Jail.

“(There are) people in the jail right now that need a mental health evaluation at Larned and the minimum wait’s about nine to 12 months,” Dennis said.

The latest $25 million from the state adds on to $30 million already improved for a new-hospital project estimated to cost $50 million.

The building - which could be a completely new build or renovation of an existing one - will be constructed by the county and then run by the state.

The joint Wichita State and KU Biomedical Campus received $15 million to expand healthcare education.

Wichita State President Dr. Rick Muma said, “We’re building a health science education center that moves all of our programs to a centralized location.”

The campus will be in downtown Wichita. More than $200 million of the $300 million needed for the project has been raised for the project. The $200 that has been raised is what’s needed to move the educational programs to the central location, while the remaining about $90 million would be for moving clinics and labs to the site.

Construction is expected to start next year and be completed in 2026.

Dr. Muma said current facilities are outdated and this will help to create a stronger pipeline of healthcare workers for the area.

Dr. Muma said, “People thinking about going into healthcare programs will see a new state-of-the-art facility that’s truly interprofessional and a unique aspect of it is that there are three institutions coming together to make this happen. That hasn’t happened in the state before.”

The country is also considering co-locating its Comcare Crisis Center and/or health department with the Biomedical Campus, which could also provide educational opportunities for students looking at social work or medicine.

The Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Wichita and Rock Regional Hospital in Derby each received $5 million as well.