KHI News Service

Officials gear up for Rainbow reboot

Former state hospital will reopen as a short-stay, crisis stabilization center

By Mike Shields | February 26, 2014

Officials say they are on schedule to open a retooled Rainbow Mental Health Facility on April 1 and are in the process of hiring case managers and other workers to staff it.

"Rainbow as of April 1, will no longer be a state psychiatric hospital. It won't be licensed as a state hospital," said Mark Wiebe, a spokesman for the Wyandot Center, which is taking over Rainbow operations with two partner organizations. "We will have a 24-7 facility to take in anyone who comes through in crisis - usually seriously intoxicated."

The mostly mothballed state mental hospital will become a short-stay, "crisis stabilization" facility that Wiebe said officials hope will prove to be a model for others like it across the state. It will operate under state contract with a budget of about $3.5 million a year.

Wiebe described progress on the initiative during a meeting today of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.

'Port in a storm'

State officials and others have said the services to be offered at the repurposed Rainbow building, which is near the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., will fill needs in Wyandotte and Johnson counties that have gone largely unmet since a short-lived stabilization and detox unit at the medical center was closed years ago.

Those who are brought or come to the facility will be sobered up - if needed - evaluated and directed to other service providers who can perhaps help them with their problems. The idea is that the facility will help reduce the number of people who end up in jails or mental hospitals because police or others don't have a better place to take them.

Wiebe said the goal is to make the facility a "port in the storm and a port of access," for people in trouble because of mental illness and/or drug and alcohol abuse.

The facility will include an "observation unit" with about 10 "recliners" instead of beds where people can sleep off intoxication or simply rest over the course of a few hours before they are connected to other service providers such as drug or alcohol treatment program or a mental health center.

One of the partners with Wyandot Center is the Heartland Regional Drug & Alcohol Assessment Center. The other is the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

Quick connections to services

"The whole idea is connecting people quickly to services," said Gina Meier-Hummel, commissioner of community services and programs at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. KDADS is the agency in charge of the state's mental hospitals and other mental health programs.

Gina Meier-Hummel, Commissioner of Community Services and Programs at Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

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Wiebe said the facility also will have a "sobering" unit with sleeping pallets on the floor. Those admitted to the unit would only stay there for four to six hours, the time it would take to become sober.

"If you put someone in a bed, you have to worry about them falling out of the bed," Wiebe said.

There also will be a unit with 10 beds where people can stay for as long as 10 days though the goal would be to get them otherwise situated within three to five days, he said.

Altogether, the facility will be able to treat or assist about 22 patients at any given time.

Wiebe said staff hiring is underway with first preference being given to current Rainbow employees, many of whom have been working at Osawatomie State Hospital since Rainbow was mostly closed down in 2011 after it failed to pass fire marshal and other inspections.

He said positions would be open to more applicants starting next week.

The staff will include mental health technicians, registered nurses, triage specialists, intensive case managers and others.

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