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Early signs show promise for Rainbow Mental Health, officials say

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Above image credit: Mattresses line the walls of the sobering unit in the newly reopened Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan. (Photo by Mike Sherry/The Hale Center for Journalism)
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2 minute read

A reconstituted mental health facility in Kansas City, Kan., has been a financial and therapeutic success in its first five months of operation, officials involved in the transition said Wednesday.

“It’s great news so far,” said Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), “and I think it’s only going to get better.”

Bruffett spoke to a group of about 30 people gathered at the Rainbow Mental Health Facility, which reopened in April as a collaboration between the state and mental health/substance abuse providers in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

According to data presented at the briefing, the new Rainbow has served nearly 560 clients, including some more than once. Officials also estimate the facility has saved more than $2 million by diverting patients from Osawatomie State Hospital or hospital emergency rooms.

Once a 50-bed inpatient hospital operated by the state, Rainbow now has a 30-person capacity split equally between a short-term sobering area, an observation station designed for a maximum stay of 23 hours and a crisis-stabilization section for maximum stays of 10 days.

Wyandot Inc., a family of organizations in Kansas City, Kan., that includes a community mental health center, is operating the new center under a three-year contract with KDADS worth $3.5 million annually.

In announcing the new arrangement earlier this year, state officials said spending on the new Rainbow equaled its previous budget when also taking into account inpatient dollars the state has shifted from Rainbow to Osawatomie.

Reopening Rainbow this spring culminated a lengthy process, which began in the fall of 2011 when the state shifted the beds to Osawatomie after authorities cited fire-safety concerns with the facility.

Year-over-year data provided at the briefing also showed that:

  • Osawatomie State Hospital has had fewer admissions from the Rainbow service area since the facility opened, with the largest decrease of 42.4 percent coming in June.
  •  Clients from the Rainbow area have logged 900 fewer bed days at Osawatomie from April thru August this year compared with the same period last year.
  • Based on information gathered during intake, the emergency room would have been the alternative for about half of the patients served at Rainbow.

One item on the wish list for Rainbow is the capacity to serve clients who are so intoxicated that they need medical attention, said Wyandot Inc. CEO Randy Callstrom.

Officer Thomas Keary of the Overland Park Police Department, who attended the briefing, said Rainbow proved its worth during a call in June involving a male who was drunk and suicidal.

Without Rainbow, Keary said, his best alternative would probably have been an emergency room where he would have had to spend at least two hours.

At Rainbow, he said, “I was in and out of the door in 13 minutes.”


Mike Sherry is a health reporter with Heartland Health Monitor, a reporting collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio. He is based at KCPT’s Hale Center for Journalism. 


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