The aging Rainbow Mental Health Facility, which has been largely mothballed in recent years, will be turned into a 24/7 crisis stabilization center aimed at keeping people with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders out of jails, emergency rooms and psychiatric hospitals.
In a news conference Thursday, Gov. Sam Brownback called the facility’s new mission the most significant change in Kansas’ mental health system in two decades. Rainbow will serve as a “port of calm” for people in crisis, he said. If successful, it could serve as a model for other mental health facilities around the state.
Rainbow Mental Health is just north of the University of Kansas Medical Center campus. It opened in the early 1970s as an inpatient unit of Osawatomie State Hospital. But in 2011, Rainbow was reduced to a six-bed crisis stabilization unit after federal officials determined it was understaffed and the state fire marshal ruled it unsafe. Thirty of Rainbow’s residential patient beds were moved to Osawatomie.
Money was allocated to renovate Rainbow as an inpatient hospital. But state and local officials decided last year there was a more pressing need to expand Rainbow’s capacity for crisis stabilization in Johnson and Wyandotte counties, where large numbers of jail inmates have mental illnesses or problems with drugs or alcohol that led to their incarceration.
In a three-year contract with the state, Wyandot Center, Wyandotte County’s community mental health center, will operate Rainbow through a new nonprofit corporation, Rainbow Services Inc. Wyandot Center will collaborate on the initiative with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Johnson County Mental Health Center and the Heartland Regional Alcohol & Drug Assessment Center.
After minor renovations, Rainbow Services will open in April with a “sobering unit” for up to six people, a six-bed medically supervised crisis observation unit for stays of less than a day and a 10-bed crisis stabilization unit where patients will stay for up to 10 days. Rainbow also will provide patients access to community-based services.
Rainbow Services’ $3.5 million annual budget will come from the savings the state expects to accrue by leaving at Osawatomie the 30 residential beds that had been transferred from Rainbow.
Rainbow Services initially will serve Wyandotte and Johnson counties, but it eventually could expand to include Leavenworth and Douglas counties, said Wyandot Center CEO and president Peter Zevenbergen Jr.