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Mental health officials brief stakeholders on KCK facility

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A new short-term mental health facility in Kansas City, Kan., will have the capacity to serve community needs and will not abandon patients after they are treated, the operators of the facility said at a Friday forum.

There should always be adequate space in the facility because the focus of the treatment will be quick interventions that allow further treatment of the individual through community-based supports, said Dalyn Schmitt, CEO of Heartland Regional Alcohol & Drug Assessment Center in Mission, Kan., one of three organizational partners in the new crisis-stabilization facility.

The plan is for the treatment center to house patients for no more than 10 days, and organizers said staff will treat some clients in a matter of hours.

The main intent of the new operation, according to the partners, is treating individuals who might otherwise wind up in jail or a state mental hospital. Services might include adjusting a client’s medication or simply allowing someone to come down from a high so counselors can work with the individual to find help through an outside agency.

The organizations expect to open the center by April. It will operate out of the old Rainbow Mental Health Facility, at 2205 W. 36th Ave., a former state-run center that closed more than two years ago.

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 other organizational partner is the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

An audience of more than 100 individuals attended the 75-minute forum held in the Mission office of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

Along with consumers, attendees at the meeting included representatives from law enforcement, social service providers and state government. State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City, Kan., democrat, also attended.

The facility will have 10 beds for longer-term stays, said Wyandot Center CEO Pete Zevenbergen. The building will have a capacity to serve approximately 20 more people at a given time, 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.”

Gary Bachman, interim director of the undergraduate social work program at Park University in Parkville, Mo., cautioned that leaders of the effort not create a “brief interlude” of treatment and then discharge the patients with no support network. That happens too often in mental health, he said.

The leaders said that wouldn’t happen because of the close coordination with other service providers. They also said patients would benefit from obtaining treatment 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 Rainbow facility 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, according to the state.

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 include:

  • That Wyandot has hired a director for the facility. He did not identify the director, who he said has a nursing background.
  • The partners need to make about $75,000 of renovations to the building.
  • The new facility is utilizing about a third of the space in the building.
  • Planning and negotiations with the state took about a year to complete.

Donavan Gardner, a staff member at a consumer organization in Kansas City, Kan., expressed support for the plan.

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

Major Funding for Health coverage on KCPT provided by Assurant Employee Benefits and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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