The leader of a mental health crisis center in Kansas City told legislators Tuesday that the amount of money his facility is saving Kansas hospitals, prisons and jails is nearly double its total budget.
Randy Callstrom is president and CEO of Wyandot Inc., a community mental health center that took over the former Rainbow Mental Health Facility state hospital in 2014.
Callstrom told the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice that the facility, rebranded as Rainbow Services Inc., or RSI, saved $6 million last year by stabilizing people in crisis who otherwise would have ended up in state hospitals, local emergency rooms or jails and prisons.
“The impact of RSI as far as reducing admissions to state hospitals, I think, is pretty impressive,” Callstrom said.
RSI is funded almost entirely by a $3.5 million grant from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
Callstrom said that RSI absorbed 4,543 admissions from 2,480 individuals with mental illness from the time it opened in April 2014 to August 2016.
In 2015 alone, he estimated that RSI saved almost $4 million in state hospital costs, $2 million in emergency room visits and about $75,000 in jail expenses.
Rick Cagan, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said his organization supports creating a statewide network of crisis stabilization centers modeled on RSI.
A network of crisis stabilization centers is part of a seven-point plan that would create a more humane Kansas mental health system than the current one, which he said is overly reliant on institutionalization.
“We know that if you can get the right treatment at the right time for the right duration, it can be successful in the vast majority of cases — like 80 percent even (for people) with severe mental illness,” Cagan said.
RSI currently serves only Kansans who voluntarily seek treatment. Cagan’s group would like to extend crisis stabilization services to those who are involuntarily committed at the request of loved ones or law enforcement.
To do that, Callstrom said RSI would need the Legislature to grant it legal authority to take involuntary commitments and provide more funding to renovate the facility for size and security purposes.
Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, asked Callstrom if the Legislature should take state funds currently being used at Osawatomie State Hospital to make up for a loss of federal Medicare dollars there and instead use the money for crisis stabilization centers.
Callstrom said preventive services like crisis stabilization could make it possible to permanently reduce beds at the state hospital, but the services have to be ready before the beds can be eliminated.
“Until those community resources are in place, reducing the number of beds in the long term at Osawatomie State Hospital would not be my recommendation,” he said.
Callstrom said crisis stabilization centers like his also need robust community mental health services that patients can use immediately upon discharge. Community mental health centers in Kansas have absorbed about $20 million in state budget cuts since 2007.
Housing is also a major issue, Callstrom said, because it’s more challenging for community providers to track people with mental illness who are homeless.
RSI has identified homelessness and substance abuse as common factors among patients who use the crisis stabilization services frequently.
“There are social determinants that are part of that,” Callstrom said.
State officials closed all but six of Rainbow Mental Health Facility’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.
The other 30 beds from Rainbow were moved to Osawatomie State Hospital, but a year later that facility had to drop 60 of its 206 beds while making safety-related renovations.
Osawatomie State Hospital has since restored those beds but is still short Medicare payments after losing certification because of security concerns. State funds are being used to fill the hole.
Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso