WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Neighbors near the proposed site of a new state mental health hospital in Wichita met Friday night to discuss concerns over changes to the project. These changes would move the facility west of MacArthur and Meridian closer to homes and would potentially allow for a work-release program.

“We’re not against the mental health facility, we’re against the location,” said neighbor Starla Boyle.

The project is one Wichita City Council vote away from beginning construction.

“The county and the state can begin construction, begin the process of construction for the mental health hospital. So this is the last step in the approval process for the actual construction of the facility,” explained Wichita City Councilmember Dalton Glasscock, representing the neighbors with whom he addressed concerns.

The vote to move the project forward is set for the Wichita City Council’s May 14 meeting. If approved, it could mean changes to previous plans. These include the possible work-release program and moving the site from the northwest corner of the property near MacArthur and Meridian to the southwest corner, closer to neighbors’ homes.

“Now our children will be looking at this mental health facility while they’re playing in our front yard. You want something positive to surround your children so you have positive results You don’t want them seeing negative,” Boyle said.

Sedgwick County leaders say work release will not be a part of the psychiatric hospital, but Boyle and her neighbors are concerned that a program could be started once the hospital is handed over to the state.

“We do not need criminals on foot, There’s no public transportation here for them. This is a huge security risk for our community,” Boyle said.

She and her neighbors said they feel that they haven’t been included by the county in decisions made about their neighborhood.

“We would like more communication, we would like to be included in more of this,” Boyle said. “They did their vote and then did a town hall after. To us, the process is backwards. They should be doing the town halls and really getting the input from us before they do a vote.”

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