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KCK Social Service Organization Cuts Jobs

Wyandot Inc. says state Medicaid cutbacks hurt the agency

Wyandot Inc. offices Wyandot Inc. in Kansas City, Kansas, operates a community mental health center participating in a new program to help young people diagnosed with schizophrenia. (Photo: Mike Sherry | Flatland)
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Hit by recent cuts in state mental health programs, Wyandot Inc., an umbrella organization for four nonprofit agencies in Kansas City, Kansas, has eliminated 26 positions.

Six of the positions were vacant and won’t be filled and six other employees accepted transfers to other positions in the organization, leaving a total of 14 who lost their jobs.

“The reason for the layoffs and reductions in services was the cumulative effect of a number of revenue losses we experienced due to state policy changes and reductions from managed care organizations,” said Randy Callstrom, president and CEO of Wyandot Inc.

Callstrom said the losses amounted to more than $1 million and stemmed from two significant policy changes: the state’s decision to eliminate community mental health centers as gatekeepers who completed hospital assessments for Medicaid recipients; and its decision to eliminate funding for a pilot “health home” program designed to improve the health of people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.

“We’ve already stopped getting referrals and staff is starting to leave and we’re having to wind the program down,” Callstrom said of the health home program.

Kansas began the program in August 2014, when it put community mental health centers in charge of coordinating care for Medicaid patients with severe mental illnesses. In January, Budget Director Shawn Sullivan recommended that the state end the pilot program, which he says hadn’t produced significant results.

Critics of the decision said the program hadn’t been given enough time to show results.

The layoffs at Wyandot weren’t entirely unexpected. Last week, Wyandot Inc. ended drop-in services at the Frank Williams Housing Resource Center, which it operated. The Kansas City Star reported that about 100 people, many of them homeless, used the services on a daily basis.

Callstrom said that the elimination of the drop-in program and the layoffs were based on whether the services in question had their own funding sources.

“So we really looked at those unfunded services that we’ve been providing that were not attached to any funding in any way and that led to the elimination of the 26 positions,” he said.

Wyandot Inc. is the parent company of a group of nonprofit agencies, including Wyandot Center, which is Wyandotte County’s designated community mental health center and operates Rainbow Services, Inc.; Paces, which addresses emotional and behavioral problems among children and adolescents; Kim Wilson Housing Inc., which helps develop housing options for the homeless; and City Vision, which promotes sustainable economic development in the urban core of Kansas City, Kansas.

Wyandot traces its roots to 1953. It and its subsidiary agencies have more than 500 employees and a combined budget of about $32 million.

Callstrom said he did not anticipate more layoffs, unless the state makes additional mental health cuts.

Therese Horvat, Wyandot’s vice president for communications, said the 14 people who were let go were given the chance to move to other positions, but they were either uninterested or not qualified.

She said the agencies primarily affected were Wyandot Inc., Wyandot Center and Paces.

“As much as we believe in resilience for our clients, we also have been resilient as an organization,” she said. “We have grown through the years. While this was a difficult decision to make, we are turning a corner and looking ahead. Our focus is on our core mission, which is to be a mental health center for people.”

— Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

— Mike Sherry is a member of the Heartland Health Monitor team, a reporting collaboration among KCUR, KCPT, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio. He can be reached at msherry@kcpt.org

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