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Friday, July 25, 2014

Tornado victims to be housed near Larned's sexual predator unit

BY DION LEFLER
The Wichita Eagle

After losing their group homes in the tornado that flattened Greensburg, a group of people with mental disabilities has been moved to a building at Larned State Hospital ordinarily used for treating sexual predators.

Five clients of the Iroquois Center For Human Development will be housed indefinitely in the annex building at the state mental hospital, adjacent to a building where authorities confine sex offenders who have finished their prison sentences but are still judged to be a danger to society.

The tornado survivors will be guests of the state hospital until they can go home to Greensburg or be relocated to another community.

Hospital authorities are unsure "whether this is going to be a long-term temporary arrangement or a short-term temporary arrangement," said Abbie Hodgson, spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which runs Larned.

"They're welcome to stay as long as they need a place," Hodgson said.

The tornado victims, all of which have developmental disabilities or mental illnesses, were living in group homes as part of the Iroquois Center's independent-living program.

Hodgson said precautions are being taken to maintain separation between the tornado survivors and the sex offenders next door.

Treatment sessions for the sexual predators that are normally held in the annex building are being moved.

In addition, a locked gate and interior security in the Dillon Building, where the sex offenders are housed, should keep the patients there from mixing with the newcomers, Hodgson said.

Unlike the sex offenders, the tornado survivors will be able to come and go freely, Hodgson said. A staff member from the Iroquois Center will be on site at all times, and Larned will provide a nurse to dispense needed medications, she said.

The tornado survivors will have access to a kitchen and can cook for themselves, or are welcome to eat in the main cafeteria with the regular psychiatric patients at the hospital, she said.

Patients who are judged to be dangerous have separate dining facilities, she said.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.

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