The community mental health center in Topeka on Thursday will formally open a 26-bed crisis intervention center that’s expected to lead to fewer mentally ill adults being referred to Osawatomie State Hospital or ending up in jail.
“We’re hoping this new facility will take some pressure off the state hospital,” says Glea Ashley, chief executive at Valeo Behavioral Health Care. “But our main goal is to get people the services they need so they don’t deteriorate to the point where they end up in Osawatomie, or in jail, or in the emergency room. If we can get them stabilized and get them the wrap-around services they need, then hopefully we can get them back on their feet. That’s the goal.”
Last year Valeo referred 207 patients to Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state-run hospitals for the mentally ill.
In recent weeks, the state hospital has admitted record numbers of patients. And more than 900 of the 9,600 inmates in the state’s prison system are known to have serious and persistent mental illnesses.
“I think this is going to be great,” says Jim Mosbacher, director at Breakthrough House, a drop-in program for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses. “It’s desperately needed. It should help keep some people from sleeping under the bridge.”
Most of the new facility’s services will target Shawnee County residents.
“We always take care of Shawnee County first,” Ashley says. “But we’ll take individuals from throughout the state if we can and if they meet the criteria.”
Services at the new facility will include short residential stays, lasting three to five days.
The facility, she says, is not meant to replicate Rainbow Services Inc., the now-privatized crisis stabilization unit that replaced Rainbow Mental Health Facility, a state-run psychiatric hospital in Kansas City.
“As I understand it, a lot of the services at Rainbow now are new. It’s a new model,” Ashley says. “But a lot of what we’re doing will be more of an expansion of what we’ve been doing. We’re taking crisis services that we’ve had spread out over eight locations and we’re consolidating them into one central location.”
The new building, she says, also “should free up some space in the other eight locations, which are just packed with people now.”
Ashley says most of the facility’s services will be financed through the state’s Medicaid program.
Valeo, she says, is covering the project’s $5.4 million in construction costs.
“This has been a long time coming,” Ashley says. “This is 10 years of saving up our reserves. We’d thought of doing a separate capital campaign, but it would have taken too long and the need was just so great. We knew we needed to get it up and going.”
The new facility will not include additional detox beds, she says, because the operational funding is not available. “That’s a major issue,” Ashley says. “But the funding isn’t there. It’s not increasing; if anything, it’s decreasing.”
Valeo, she says, currently has 11 detox beds but only has enough funding for eight.
Last year, the mental health center served about 7,100 patients. Its annual budget — a mix of city, county, state and federal monies, plus private pay, donations and grants — stands at $19 million.