Fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress, discussing his desire to stop the inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in institutions. In October, community mental health centers across the country will celebrate 50 years of service as a result of his address.

Diane Drake, executive director at the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance, spoke about Kennedy’s speech Wednesday during a meeting of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. The services now provided by the Layton center, 2537 Eisenhower Road, Ottawa, have a direct tie to the former president’s remarks, she said.

Franklin County, along with other entities, contracts mental health services through the Layton center. The county’s contract was renewed at Wednesday’s meeting by a unanimous board vote. Funding for the center’s services was included in the county’s 2013 budget.  

While Drake did not offer exact statistics, she said the Layton center has seen an increased number of juvenile patients. Out of the more than 2,100 patients the center served in 2012, about 37 percent were children, she said, an increase from 34 percent from 2011.

And 80 percent of the people served were at or below the poverty line, she said. Some of the county’s funding helps pay for those patients who are unable to pay, Drake said.

Other sources of funding for the center continue to be in flux, she said. While Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has not yet proposed any cuts in funding for mental health services statewide, Drake said, the governor is making plans to institute a “mental health initiative,” which will include taking mental health center money and putting it into regional efforts.

“So what I’m planning on with my board, is to consider that $90,000 of our funding will be taken out of our personal kiddy and put toward regional efforts,” Drake said.

How the funding will be exchanged and on what exactly it would be spent are uncertain, she said. Because of that uncertainty, the Layton center must make plans to cut back.

Up for consideration, Drake said, is disbanding the center’s batterers intervention program. A combined effort by the center and city and county law enforcement to prosecute domestic violence cases, the program has been highly advantageous, she said.

“There have been prosecutions both of men and women in the area of domestic violence,” Drake said.

As part of the program, the Franklin County attorney has allowed convicted violators to complete an intensive, 26-week program rather than jail time. Therapists determined whether those violators had changed their behaviors and successfully completed the course.

“We have had graduates of that course, and it’s gone fairly well,” Drake said. “Without them having renewal of the grant [that paid for the program], we lost half of our support to provide that service.”

A small fee is charged to the offender to participate in the program, she said, but increasing the cost to cover funding reductions might reduce the number of participants and lead to more offenders in jail.