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Kansas Mental Health Centers Seek Exemption From Gun Law

Unless the Legislature makes a change, community mental health centers across Kansas will have to allow patients and staff to bring their guns starting in July. A 2013 state law requires most publicly owned buildings to allow concealed weapons or to install metal detectors and post armed guards. The law included a four-year exemption for community mental health centers, universities, publicly owned medical facilities, nursing homes and low-income health clinics that ends July 1. The Senate Ways and Means Committee had a hearing Thursday on a bill that would make the some exemptions permanent, however. Senate Bill 235[1] would continue the exemption for medical facilities, including the University of Kansas Hospital, but not college campuses.

Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, said he hopes lawmakers decide to continue the exemption for community mental health centers. He estimated it would cost millions to secure the center s four buildings.

There s just no way we can take that much money away from services, he said. The mental health center already trains its employees to recognize and respond to signs of danger in case a patient decides to break the rules and bring a weapon, DeWeese said. Still, he worries that if more people bring guns, the odds of a violent incident will go up.

With it being legal to do so, you re going to see an increase in people bringing guns, he said.

How To Afford Added Security?

Brett Hildabrand, a former legislator who lobbies on behalf of the Kansas State Rifle Association, told the committee it would be na ve to assume patients already aren t bringing guns into hospitals or mental health treatment facilities.

We believe the facility should provide adequate security or allow individuals to feel secure by carrying their own handguns, he said. Most community mental health centers don t have extra money for the added security measures, said Colin Thomasset, associate director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas. The state has cut its base grant[2] to the 26 centers[3] by 70 percent since fiscal year 2007, he said in written testimony to the committee.

Bill Persinger, CEO of Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka, estimated installing metal detectors and hiring at least one guard for each of Valeo s nine facilities would be cost-prohibitive, with expenses running to at least half a million dollars.

There s no place for a gun in a mental health facility, he said. The committee has yet to vote on the bill, which if approved would go to the full Senate.

State Hospital Estimates Lowered

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services didn t take a position on SB 235, but KDADS staff said installing metal detectors and hiring guards for the state s four facilities would cost more than $11 million. A previous estimate put the costs at more than $25 million[4]. Amy Penrod, director of finance and budget at KDADS, said the department calculated the lower cost based on securing only buildings where patients congregate and allowing a single entrance to those buildings. The estimate would go up if the facilities, which currently use unarmed security staff, have to retrain them to carry guns, she said.

Kimberly Lynch, KDADS chief counsel, said the department has concerns that patients at Osawatomie or Larned state hospital could take a gun from a visitor. Adding guards and metal detectors also could be a problem at Kansas Neurological Institute and Parsons State Hospital and Training Center, which house people with severe developmental disabilities, she said.

These are their homes. They live there, she said.

SB 235 is at least the fourth bill introduced this session that relates to the concealed carry law. A bill to permanently exempt only community mental health centers[5] from the concealed carry law has yet to get a hearing, making it unlikely it could advance. A second bill exempting KU Medical Center failed in a committee vote, and a third bill, which would have extended all of the exemptions indefinitely[6], didn t come up for a vote.

Meg Wingerter is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach her on Twitter @MegWingerter. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.[7][8]

References

  1. ^ Senate Bill 235 (kslegislature.org)
  2. ^ state has cut its base grant (kcur.org)
  3. ^ 26 centers (www.acmhck.org)
  4. ^ more than $25 million (kcur.org)
  5. ^ permanently exempt only community mental health centers (kslegislature.org)
  6. ^ extended all of the exemptions indefinitely (www.kslegislature.org)
  7. ^ @MegWingerter (twitter.com)
  8. ^ kcur.org (kcur.org)

Russia: 6 militants, 6 soldiers killed in Chechen firefight

Russian authorities say six suspected militants and six soldiers were killed during a firefight in the volatile North Caucasus region. The National Anti-terrorism Committee said in a statement Friday that armed militants, including two with suicide belts, tried to break into a National Guard base in Chechnya in the early hours of the morning. The National Guard, a powerful new security agency created last year by President Vladimir Putin, said in a statement that the attack took place in heavy fog.

The Kremlin has relied on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to stabilize the situation in the mainly Muslin region in the wake of two bloody separatist wars that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

Conor McGregor’s fine for UFC Vegas pre-bout fracas reduced

LAS VEGAS Nevada athletic officials on Wednesday significantly reduced the penalty they imposed on UFC star Conor McGregor following a profanity-laced, bottle-throwing fracas with a rival during a pre-fight news conference last year in Las Vegas. The Nevada Athletic Commission approved an agreement with McGregor that settled on a $25,000 fine, 25 hours of community service and a little over $1,000 for the state s legal costs. The commission had previously penalized McGregor with 50 hours of community service and a $150,000 fine, of which half was meant to go toward an anti-bullying public service announcement. Commission chairman Anthony Marnell III said he believes the $150,000 penalty was too high, even though he voted to approve it, and denied that McGregor was receiving preferential treatment. That fine, which was recommended by the attorney general s office, was calculated as a percentage of the $3 million that McGregor was paid for his Aug. 20 decision win over Nate Diaz during UFC 202.

If you go out and look in all of sports for things that get thrown, the fines are not very high for whatever reason, Marnell said after the hearing. I think that we didn t have any precedence to go on here Usually, when somebody comes before us with a doping violation, we have a lot of precedent for that. Throwing a Monster can and a water bottle at a press conference, that s a first.

McGregor arrived about half hour late to the Aug. 17 press conference touting the highly anticipated fight, a rematch five months after a bout Diaz won by submission. As McGregor answered questions, Diaz stood up and left the stage. Diaz and McGregor and members of their groups yelled at each other and eventually began hurling water bottles at one other. A complaint by the Nevada state attorney general s office said a security officer received a minor injury when he was struck by a beverage can. Diaz paid his $50,000 fine. Marnell said Diaz will be given an opportunity to have his fine reconsidered by the commission and possibly get a reimbursement.

McGregor s attorney, Jennifer Goldstein, said the fine will be paid Wednesday. Her client has six months to complete the community service, which he can carry out anywhere he wants, according to the agreement. Commissioners discussed the possibility of McGregor having anti-bullying conversations with children.

It s the type of situation that one hopes it had never happened, bu he thinks that the resolution was fair, Goldstein said after the meeting. I won t purport to speak for him, but I think that his testimony at the last hearing showed that he in fact understands the severity of the impact it had. McGregor listened to the meeting by phone and did not speak. After the commission imposed the fine in October, McGregor filed a petition in a Las Vegas court indicating his intention to ask a judge to review the commission s decision. The agreement signed Wednesday bars McGregor and the commission from suing each other in connection with the disciplinary action.

The commission can approve any license applications from McGregor after he pays the fine and attorney s fees, even before he completes the community service.

McGregor has been vocal about his willingness to box against Floyd Mayweather Jr., though both fighters would have to clear a number of hurdles to make it happen. Bookies in this gambling city don t give McGregor much of a chance, with Mayweather being a whopping 25-1 favorite in odds posted at a sports book last month.

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