Rainbow Mental Health Facility reopening in April

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has announced a plan to reopen the Rainbow Mental Health Facility that the state shut down nearly three years ago. This news could be especially good for law enforcement. Law enforcement officials say that too often cops have to take people with mental illness or drug abuse problems to jail because the place they really belong doesn't exist.

The reopening of Rainbow Mental Health will help address that overwhelming need. The state fire marshal forced officials to close Rainbow Mental Health in 2011, because the building wasn't up to code.

At the time, Kansas moved the center's 30 long-term patient beds to the state hospital in Osawatomie, which is about an hour south.

“That’s a long drive for an agency our size,” Officer Kyle Ships with the Prairie Village Police Department said.

Officer Ships says not only does the drive take an officer off the streets for more than two hours, it may leave his city with only two officers on the beat. Plus, Osawatomie is only supposed to be for long-term stays. Too often, he admitted, local jails house the mentally ill.

“Unfortunately, sometimes people do get put in jail that maybe would be better served getting hospital treatment first,” Officer Ships said.

Which is why he is happy to learn the state intends to reopen Rainbow Mental Health in April.

“Over the past 50 years, as a country, we've closed psychiatric beds,” Gov. Brownback said.

Now Gov. Sam Brownback says the state will renovate Rainbow and make it a short-term crisis intervention facility for an underserved population.

“In our corrections system today, the numbers I have, it's over 60 percent have mental or substance abuse problems,” Gov. Brownback said.

Rainbow will have 22 beds. It'll serve people who just need a few hours to sober up, or up to 10 days to stabilize a mental health crisis. In a given year, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people will cycle through the center for short-term medical help.

“The correction system isn't really set up to deal with mental health and substance abuse issues,” Gov. Brownback said.

But the governor says Rainbow will be. It'll serve patients from Johnson and Wyandotte counties. The state will pay the Wyandotte Center $3.5 million dollars a year to operate the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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