The state hospital system is nearly as old as Kansas itself.
The Wyandotte Constitution of 1859 mandated the state to foster and support institutions for “the benefit of the insane, blind, deaf and dumb, and such other benevolent institutions as the public good may require.”
To this end, the Kansas Insane Asylum, now known as Osawatomie State Hospital was established in 1866 by the legislature as a reward to the City of Osawatomie for its role in the Civil War.
Within ten years, Osawatomie became so crowded Governor Osborne approved legislation allocating funding for an additional “asylum for the insane,” and Topeka State Hospital opened its doors in 1879.
The State Asylum for Idiotic and Imbecile Youth opened in Lawrence in 1881, and moved to Winfield in 1887. It was renamed the State Home for the Feeble-Minded in 1909, and renamed again in 1920 to become the State Training School.
In 1903 the legislature established the State Hospital for Epileptics in Parsons, which received most of its patients from Osawatomie and Topeka. The hospital officially became the Parsons State Training School in 1953.
Larned State Hospital opened in 1914 to provide care and treatment for the mentally ill in the western part of the state. The Hospital took on additional responsibilities with the opening of the State Security Hospital in 1939.
In 1960, the state legislature authorized the creation of the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka.
Tuberculosis hospitals were established in Norton in 1914 and in Chanute in 1963. Also in 1963 the State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis in Norton was authorized to serve persons with mental retardation. It continued this dual duty until 1968, at which point all TB patients were transferred to the institution in Chanute and the sanatorium was renamed Norton State Hospital. It never served direct admissions, only transfers from other institutions.
Rainbow Mental Health Facility was built as an extension of Osawatomie State Hospital in 1973, and converted to an independent facility the following year.
Early on, Kansas made provisions for providing services to individuals needing care outside of the institutional setting.
The 1862 legislature made cities and townships the providers of public assistance to the poor, most of which took the form of county-farm relief. By the mid-1930’s state law allowed all Kansas counties to appoint a commissioner of the poor and counties assumed primary responsibility for social welfare.
The 1937 Kansas Welfare Act established the state board of social welfare and allowed the state to maximize federal funding by participating in programs created by the federal Social Security Act. The state department of social welfare, comprised of social welfare and institutional management divisions, was established in 1949, although counties retained primary administrative control over welfare.
By the late sixties the federal government’s role in social welfare programs was increasing and state aid to counties for public assistance needs was soaring. The political environment was ripe for change.
SRS was established in the seventies as THE state social services agency.