- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - It could cost $25 million to upgrade security at Kansas’ major mental hospitals in Osawatomie and Larned in order to avoid allowing concealed carry firearms in the building.

A state law that takes effect in July requires an open-door policy at the two hospitals serving people with severe mental illnesses unless extraordinary security measures have been taken to protect patients. The law requires Kansas’ community mental health centers, public hospitals and public universities to allow people inside with concealed guns if there is no airport-level screening at building entrances, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2mXpYGZ ).

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck told a House committee Thursday that the statute applies to the state hospitals, and it could cost an estimated $25 million to install metal detection equipment and bolster security staff.

“We’re trying to balance the need to protect our patients and staff with the law,” department spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said.

Legislation has stalled that would exempt medical facilities and college campuses from the concealed-gun law.

Democratic Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore said exempting mental hospitals from the security requirements would make more sense, given Kansas’ budget shortfall and the hospitals’ difficulty in hiring medical personnel.

“There’s no question we can’t allow guns in Osawatomie and Larned,” Wolfe Moore said. “The staffing issues they already experience will be much, much worse.”

Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman said the consideration of a concealed-carry bill Friday has been postponed because of the information about potential cost incurred by state hospitals to maintain a firearm ban.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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