Kansas state legislators from the Kansas City metro area have identified a funding source that could reinstate Rainbow Mental Health Facility to its 50-bed capacity, but the upgrade might not come until the middle of next year, assuming the full Legislature and governor go along with the plan.
A fiscal 2012 supplemental appropriation measure awaiting consideration by the full Senate includes $1.5 million to renovate Rainbow, 2205 W. 36th Ave., in Kansas City, Kan. The money would come from a state capital improvements fund that receives revenue from a half-mill tax assessed on property owners throughout the state.
The need for a fully operational Rainbow is more than just an issue for Wyandotte and Johnson counties, said Sen. Kelly Kultala, a Kansas City Democrat.
“Leavenworth is interested, Franklin County is interested, Douglas County is interested,” she said. “They want to be able to have somewhere to take people if they need to, too.”
Kultala is a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which approved the fiscal 2012 supplemental budget bill that awaits review by the full chamber.
She said prospects for passing the measure appeared good, since it would tap a fund dedicated to the construction needs of facilities serving a variety of constituencies, including the mentally ill and the visually impaired.
Rep. Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican, said she also favors that approach.
She said the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has a balance of $6.3 million in the State Institutions Building Fund.
According to Sherriene Jones-Sontag, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, the Rainbow money was not part of the governor’s request for FY 2012 supplemental funding.
But she said the governor would carefully review the proposal, noting that the building fund has enough money to cover the expenditure. Plus, she said in an e-mail, that long-term “having 50 beds available for treatment would save the state money compared to having to contract with local providers.”
SRS cut Rainbow’s capacity to 36 beds a year ago. The move came after federal surveyors said the facility was understaffed.
Osawatomie State Hospital has housed most of Rainbow’s patients since the fall, after the State Fire Marshal’s Office ordered repairs to the Kansas City, Kan., facility.
SRS is spending more than $400,000 to upgrade the building’s sprinkler system and make other improvements to comply with fire codes. That work could be finished by June.
Kultala said it makes sense to authorize supplemental money from this year’s budget to address the deficiencies cited by the federal surveyors. Work could start quickly and could coincide with the fire-safety improvements.
“They’ve already got the people moved,” she said. “There wouldn’t have to be a lot of preplanning needed. They could just go ahead and continue it with what they are currently doing.”
Colloton said a Plan B for the upgrades could be tapping into some of the revenues expected to flow to the state from the opening of two new casinos, including the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County.
But Brownback has proposed using the roughly $80.5 million in projected casino proceeds in fiscal 2013 to reduce state debt, including paying off $11.2 million in bonds that helped finance improvements to the state fair grounds in Hutchinson.
Ideas for spending the casino money are not in short supply in Topeka, Kultala said.
“It’s really hard to budget on gaming money,” she said. “It’s very fluid; it comes and goes with the economy.”
At least from the law enforcement perspective, the arrangement with Osawatomie is working fairly well, said Deputy Tom Erickson, a spokesman for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. It would be much better, though, to have Rainbow operating at full capacity.
“What is best for everyone,” Erickson said, “is to have space available for people to be taken for mental health treatment.”