KHI News Service

New Rainbow operators talk at public forum

New facility will be a boost to local mental health services, they say

By Mike Sherry | January 31, 2014

A short-stay facility taking the place of the former state mental hospital here will have the capacity to serve about 22 people in crisis at any given time and won’t abandon patients after they are treated, the new operators said Friday at a public forum.

There should always be adequate space for patients, they said, because the focus of the treatment will be quick interventions that allow follow-up treatment through community programs, said Dalyn Schmitt, chief executive of Heartland Regional Alcohol & Drug Assessment Center in Mission, one of three partners in the new crisis-stabilization facility that will be housed in part of the former Rainbow Mental Health Facility at 2205 W. 36th Ave. near the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Rainbow was mostly closed down two years ago after federal inspectors and state fire safety officials cited it for not meeting standards.

KHI News Service

Pete Zevenbergen, chief executive of the Wyandot Center in Kansas City, Kan., spoke Friday at a forum to update the public on a new plan for the former Rainbow Mental Health Facility near the University of Kansas Medical Center. In the foreground is Tim DeWeese, clinical director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

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The plan with the new operations is to keep patients no more than 10 days, and organizers said staff could treat some clients in a matter of hours.

The focus will be treating people in crisis that otherwise might land in jail or a state mental hospital. That might mean adjusting a person’s medications or simply allowing them to come down from a drug or alcohol high while counselors work to find them help through an outside agency.

Open in April

The center is expected to open by April.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, unveiled the plan during a Jan. 23 appearance at the Wyandot Center, the community mental health center in Kansas City, Kan.

Wyandot Center will manage the new center through a newly created subsidiary. The third partner is the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

More than 100 people came to the 75-minute forum at the Mission office of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

The crowd included law enforcement officials, social service providers and members of the public. State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, also was there.

The facility also will have 10 beds for longer-term stays, said Wyandot Center Chief Executive Pete Zevenbergen. All told, there will be capacity to serve 22 people at once, including in a sobering unit where stays might be as short as three hours.

“We are hopeful that we are going to see a decrease in some of these consumers in the jail that are not being best served there,” said Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash. “We support this 100 percent.”

'No dumping'

Gary Bachman, interim director of the undergraduate social work program at Park University in Parkville, Mo., warned officials against treatments of “brief interlude” followed by releasing the patients with no support network. That happens too often in mental health, he said.

Officials said that wouldn’t happen because of the planned close coordination with other service providers. They also said patients would benefit from being treated close to home instead of at a distant state mental hospital.

“There won’t be any dumping,” Zevenbergen said.

Wyandot Center will operate the new center under a three-year, $3.5 million contract with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Rainbow once served as a 50-bed inpatient facility. State officials closed all but six of Rainbow’s beds in 2011 after federal surveyors cited a lack of staff at the hospital and the state fire marshal found safety violations.

At that time, the state transferred Rainbow’s 30 residential beds to Osawatomie State Hospital. Those beds will remain in Osawatomie, state officials have said.

New director hired

Moore said the Rainbow facility should fill a gap in care between confinement in a jail or a mental hospital and community-based services. “We are missing that middle step it feels like,” she said.

Other details provided by Zevenbergen included:

  • That Wyandot has hired a director for the facility who has nursing background. He did not identify the person.
  • The partners need to renovate the building, which will cost about $75,000.
  • The new facility will use about a third of the building space.
  • Planning and negotiations with the state took about a year to complete.

Donavan Gardner, who works at a consumer organization in Kansas City, Kan., said he supported the plan.

“I think it will go a long way,” he said. “I think it will be very successful.”

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