HAYS, Kan. (KSNW) — A new mental health hospital for children is opening in western Kansas, an area of the state experts say is in desperate need.

Sarah Berens is the executive director for Camber Children’s Mental Health in Hays. She says by opening up the hospital, 600 more children will have access to acute mental health needs and psychiatric residential services. Providers across the state are saying the need is everywhere.

“Having that service in your own backyard, where the drive time is cut in half, is imperative,” Berens said.

That timing, she says, is a crucial part of kids getting access to what they need.

Berens says up until this point, kids in western Kansas have had to go hours to Wichita or Kansas City for acute services.

She says having increased access to these services doesn’t just help these kids temporarily.

“Being able to have the skills and that foundation is what is key to being able to be successful all throughout your life,” Berens said.

Berens says suicide rates have increased in Kansas. And, from 2019 to 2021, emergency visits because of suicidality in children increased by 68%. There’s also a growing need for less intensive services.

In Wichita, mental health providers are also seeing a growing demand for patients of all ages.

“Across the board, many folks are on waiting lists, or they’re maybe not getting in connection with these different facilities because a lot of these providers are overwhelmed right now,” Jenny Helms-Calvin, the Soma Therapy & New Perspectives owner, said.

But, Helms-Calvin says, don’t give up hope. Find something online while you’re on a waitlist, or keep calling.

“Do something little, and don’t lose hope if that one doesn’t work,” Helms-Calvin said. “Try the next place. Call the next place. Don’t give up if you’re not hearing back from the first place because that’s the experience of a lot of Wichitans and Kansans right now.”

Helms-Calvin says the earlier you start treatment, the more effective it can be, potentially preventing the need for higher levels of care since those facilities are so limited in Kansas.

Camber Children’s Mental Health in Hays held its ribbon cutting Friday and will open soon.

Berens says there are several kids on a list waiting for the beds to open.