Disabled World War II servicemen were returning home and the need for rehab services was overwhelming. Here, as well as in the nation, the rehabilitation movement was still in its infancy. Responding to this need the Kansas City Health Council of the Council of Social Agencies conducted a study that recommended the development of a comprehensive rehabilitation center to meet the needs of Kansas City’s severely disabled. The idea to put medical and vocational services all under one roof was a unique and innovative idea. From this study, The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City began.
Several organizations formed the incorporating body of the Institute: The Jackson County Medical Society; Goodwill Industries; Jackson County Society for Crippled Children-Easter Seal Society; United Jewish Social Services-Jewish Family and Children Services; Kansas City Junior League; Jackson County Chapter-The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis-March of Dimes; Visiting Nurse Association; and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Two additional organizations were added in 1949, the Pi Beta Phi Alumnae of Kansas City, Missouri and the Presidents and Past Presidents General Assembly. The presidents of all these organizations along with other community leaders formed the first Board of Directors.
In November, with $7,500 from the Easter Seal Society, the Junior League and the National Foundation, the Institute opened its doors in a loft located at 2700 McGee Trafficway. In its first year, the staff of 4, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a workshop supervisor and the director, Mrs. Vivian Davis Shepherd, served 141 patients.
The Institute’s reputation grew and it moved to 31st and Gillham Plaza. A 3-year grant from the Kansas City Association of Trusts and Foundations enabled the Institute to expand its services to more patients.
Another loan made it possible to purchase a larger facility at 3600 Troost. Approval as a United Way agency provided further funding stability. During those years the Institute began offering social and psychological services, speech and hearing therapy and enlarged its vocational workshops to include evaluation, pre-vocational testing and placement services. Eventually the facility expanded to 3621 and 3625 Troost. Soon the Institute was reaching over 1600 patients and clients yearly.
In February, The Institute moved to its current location at 30th and Main. This new building, a model for barrier-free design, was specifically designed as a rehabilitation facility. The new inpatient unit led the Institute to become the first licensed rehabilitation hospital in Missouri. It also was the first facility in the region to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Also during this time, pediatric services were added to help the many children disabled by polio. Job skill training services were added to the Vocational Program.
The vocational program continued to grow rapidly and job-seeking services were added.
A satellite work adjustment shop was established at 2910 Grand. This workshop was Missouri’s first facility based Compensatory Skills Training Program for the blind adult.
Growth continued and space was at a premium. The vocational program’s Regional Work Adjustment Shop moved to 610 E. 22nd.
Medical services also began to grow. The pediatric program expanded to satellite locations. Recreational therapy and the Drivers Evaluation and Training Program were added to the services provided.
EXCEL, a fitness/wellness program for the disabled began. The head injury program was evaluated and then completely re-organized to respond to the needs of the disabled patient. Work sites in the Industry Program were established and clerical retraining services began serving the clients.
A new 20,000 square foot satellite work adjustment shop that was funded by the Jackson County Board of Services for Developmentally Disabled was built at 12th and Troost.
Vocational services continued to see rapid growth and 4 new programs were added: Computer Training for the Blind, School-to-Work Transitional Employment, the Windmills Project for area employers and the Work Capacity Program.
The Institute opened another satellite vocational office in Independence.
The Low Tech Program for Older Adults was added to respond to the growing Senior population and Kansas City Wheelchair Road and Track affiliated with The Institute.
The Program for the Blind and Visually Impaired expanded to include a residential living component. The Blind Program moved to 31st and Main. Computerized Functional Electrical Stimulation Program (REGYS/ERGYS), a cutting edge technology program, was added to the medical services.
A Post Polio Clinic is opened and Extended Work Adjustment Shop moved to 8th and Charlotte.
The Rehabilitation Institute joined Health Midwest. The Program for the Blind and Visually Impaired adopted a new name, Blind Focus and moved to new facilities at 2801 Wyandotte which is part of Trinity North.
The Institute established its physiatry residency program with University of Kansas Medical School.
The Driving Program expanded to Menorah Medical and The Institute took over the management of rehabilitation services on Trinity Campus. The Adult Day Treatment Program is established and the Pediatric Program moved to an expanded space with a focus on day treatment.
The Driving Program continued to expand and began to provide services in St. Joseph, Missouri. Another vocational satellite opened in Warrensburg.
Ron Herrick joined The Institute as the 4th President. The Board of Directors developed a strategic plan to take the Institute into the 21st century. Blind Focus changed its name to The Center for Blindness and Low Vision (CBLV).
The Rehabilitation Institute celebrated its 50th anniversary. Renovation plans were developed and approved. Employment Support Services were expanded to Johnson County satellite.
Phase I of the renovation plan was completed. The first floor public and program areas were completely renovated, making space more aesthetically pleasing and functional for service delivery.
Renovation was completed on the second floor inpatient unit. This included the addition of technological advances, reconfiguration of patient rooms and general aesthetic upgrades. The Pediatric Program expanded services to Belton, MO.
The Center for Blindness and Low Vision Program left the Institute and joined forces with Alphapointe. A Pediatric Therapeutic Playground was built and opened in June.
New Vocational Office opened in St. Joseph Missouri. Inpatient Unit is closed as a result of the closing of Trinity Lutheran Hospital, our neighbor and contract provider of key ancillary medical services needed to operate an inpatient rehab unit. The Institute regroups with concern and compassion given to affected patients and staff. The Institute participated in a state certification process and becomes a Certified provider of outpatient rehabilitation services and has approval to bill Medicare and Medicaid for services.
For the first time in eleven years, The Institute operated as an independent non-profit organization, following an amicable separation from Health Midwest. Accessible Images, a new document imaging and indexing service, became fully operational with six full and part-time employees.
Don Harkins became 5th President and CEO of The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City.
Two new fundraising events began at The Institute. Bacon Fest: The Other Fundraiser is our main fundraising event and the only bacon festival in the metropolitan area. Ability Quest is one of our most enjoyable events, as an accessible race for all individuals.
RIKC began its first capital campaign since 1969 in order to strengthen our capacity to accommodate those we serve.
The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City initiated a rebranding effort to go from "TRI" to RIKC. Home assessment and additional senior services are offered to accommodate the growing need for senior mobility in the community. As a leader in social entrepreneurship, RIKC also begins a book de-binding program with partial funding from the Mid-America Regional Council’s Solid Waste Management District and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Community partnerships continue to strengthen and grow. Ameristar Cares has made a lasting impact for our programs and those we serve through charitable giving and volunteer efforts. For our patients and participants, "Ameristar Cares" is much more than a slogan. It's an opportunity to reach for higher goals.
Each year, Assurant Employee Benefits dedicates time, talent, and generous charitable contributions in order to help our patients and participants achieve their rehabilitation goals.
Our friends at Lake Lotawana raised over $5,000 to provide funding for our programs and services!
The volunteers at Hickman Mills Church of Christ always bring big hearts and much needed help to some of the most important volunteer opportunities at RIKC. From donation drives to craft projects their hard work is appreciated!
The Rehabilitation Institute celebrated its 65th Anniversary. The Employment Service Department begins TBI Works for individuals with TBI who seek employment in the community.
RIKC welcomed a new team member! Finley is the newest addition to RIKC as a trained therapy dog with a job to lift spirits and help patients in our medical rehabilitation programs better engage in therapy. Research has shown that positive human-dog interactions frequently correlate to lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, better gross motor skill performance, and increased levels of the hormone oxytocin, which helps us grow new cells, prepare our bodies to heal, and feel at ease and connected to those around us. With dozens of patients to see each day, Finley will be busy making her rounds from the pediatric therapy gym to the adolescent classroom and adult therapy gym to make sure her patients are reaching their goals.
The newly established Falling Forward Foundation is funding additional medical rehabilitation services (physical, occupational, speech, and neuropsychology therapy) for current RIKC adult patients who have exhausted all insurance benefit coverage for medical rehabilitation services and who would continue to make significant gains if continued medical rehabilitation services were provided.