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Brownback Announces Plan To Repurpose Rainbow Mental Health Facility

Dave Ranney
KHI News

Gov. Sam Brownback Thurday unveiled his administration’s plan for reopening the Rainbow Mental Health Facility.

“I think this is a winner,” Brownback said, referring to a Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services plan for privatizing the state hospital’s operations.

The plan calls for converting the former 50-bed inpatient facility to a 10-bed “crisis stabilization resource” designed to connect people with serious and persistent mental illness to community-based services.

The new facility also will have a six-bed triage and observation unit and a six-bed detox unit.

Only the 10-bed unit will involve patient stays of more than 24 hours.

The new facility will be managed Wyandot Center, the community mental health center in Kansas City, Kan. The center will subcontract with the Johnson County Mental Health Center and Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center.

During an afternoon press conference at Wyandot Center, KDADS Secretary Shawn Sullivan said the agency had signed a three-year, $3.5-million-a-year contract with Wyandot Center.

Sullivan said that was about how much KDADS was spending on Rainbow when it was still in full use as a state facility.

Under the current system, Brownback said, too many would-be patients find their way into the state’s criminal justice system, “which really isn’t set up to deal with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

And he said many patients end up being referred to Osawatomie State Hospital because they’re in crisis and have no place else to go.

State officials closed all but six of Rainbow’s beds in 2011 after federal surveyors cited the hospital for being understaffed and the State Fire Marshal found safety violations. The six beds were converted to a crisis stabilization unit.

Wyanodot Center Executive Director Peter Zevenbergen said the initiative represented an “unprecedented” alliance between government and non-profit service providers.

He said his agency plans to use about one-third of the three-story building, which is at 2205 W. 36th Ave. in Kansas City, Kan. near the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“There’s a lot of renovation work that needs to be done,” he said, “And the way the building is set up, we’d rather not do that.”

He said the portion of the building Wyandott Center would use has sprinklers and the portion that fails to meet fire safety codes would be closed off.

The new operations should be up and running by April 1, he said. Initially, the facility’s catchment area will be limited to Wyandotte and Johnson counties.

Doug Parisi, a captain with the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, said he welcomed the governor’s announcement.

“All across the country, jails have become the de facto mental health center for people who can’t take care of themselves,” he said. “This will give us an alternative to the incarceration and booking. This will give us an alternative to criminalizing mental illness.”

Sullivan said the 30-bed unit that KDADS opened at Osawatomie State Hospital when Rainbow closed will remain open.

Rainbow employees who made the move to OSH, Sullivan said, would be allowed to remain at OSH, encouraged to apply for jobs at the new facility, or given the opportunity accept other state jobs.

This article was republished from the KHI News Service.

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