This article was originally published by the Wichita Business Journal on March 22, 2017

Comcare public-private partnership gaining momentum


The months since the inception of Comcare Community Partners have proved to be fruitful.

And organizers hope the months ahead will be even more prosperous in helping the nonprofit organization gain a stronger foothold raising money to make Sedgwick County’s mental health agency, Comcare, less reliant on taxpayer dollars.

“I’m pleased with the progress,” says Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh of the trajectory of the public-private partnership since it was solidified last summer. “We just see this as an opportunity to engage the public and offload some of the pressure on our budget.”

Unruh says a solid foundation has been put in place upon which Comcare Community Partners can build.

An 11-member board has been formed, and funding from the United Way of the Plains has been secured. Plans are in the works for a big fundraising event in the late summer or early fall. Smaller fundraisers also are being planned.

The nonprofit entity also is helping raise public awareness about Comcare’s services and promoting volunteerism within the organization.

Leaders also want to engage the local business community to create strategic partnerships.

“Our focus is getting people involved,” says Jason Van Sickle, a Wichita apartment developer who is president of the Comcare Community Partners board of directors.

Fundraising is a component Comcare has lacked before now, as is a means through which people can engage in volunteer opportunities.

Other goals are to increase the organization’s transparency and improve its efficiency.

Van Sickle says finding additional funding mechanisms for Comcare is important because the organization “fills a major gap” in Wichita’s health care industry. Comcare, he says, provided $2.9 million in uncompensated care in 2016.

Van Sickle and Marilyn Cook, Comcare’s executive director, spearheaded the effort to create a standalone nonprofit organization to benefit Comcare.

The organization aims to help individuals and families in crisis, Van Sickle says, by providing services such as detoxification, homeless outreach, mental health and suicide prevention.