Archive for Wednesday, September 29, 1999

NEW SRS SECRETARY BEGINS REORGANIZATION

September 29, 1999

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The reorganization is aimed at improving communication within the state's largest bureaucracy.

Janet Schalansky is reorganizing the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

The changes, she says, are meant to improve communication within the state's largest bureaucracy and do not reflect a change in policy.

"If you're outside the central office in Topeka, I doubt that you'll notice a difference," Schalansky said Tuesday.

Schalansky is replacing SRS Secretary Rochelle Chronister, who's retiring Friday. Schalansky's current position is deputy SRS secretary

Effective Monday, SRS will drop its six intra-department commissions -- Children and Family Services, Adult and Medical Services, Economic and Employment Services, Rehabilitation Services, Administrative Services, and Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities -- in favor of two deputy secretaries and two assistant deputy secretaries.

The department's chief financial officer, Diane Duffy, and its commissioner in charge of Economic and Employment Support, Candy Shively, will be the new deputy secretaries.

Shively will oversee the different services available through 11 area offices of SRS. Duffy will handle the department's administrative chores.

The new assistant deputy secretaries will be Connie Hubbell, currently commissioner in charge of Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, and Joyce Allegrucci, commissioner in charge of Children and Family Services.

Allegrucci will oversee the department's role in child welfare issues. Hubbell will be in charge of health care policy.

Schalansky said the new plan will, at first, cause "a few people to report to different people." But throughout the next several months, she said, the new arrangement should lead to a clearer sense of how the department can get the most out of its resources.

The reorganization, Schalansky said, is in keeping with SRS' informal "Toward One Agency" campaign.

"We're trying to get away from operating in 'silos' where people have a good understanding of whatever it is they're doing but don't know much about what everybody else is doing," Schalansky said.

"We want the right hand to know what the left hand is doing."

The reorganization is not a reversal of Chronister's policies, Schalansky said.

"We've been working on this for some time," she said, "and we've made a lot of progress among the 'higher ups.' Our hope now is to make it happen throughout the agency."

Today, Schalansky said, it's not unusual for someone seeking public assistance -- a young mother, for example -- to have to see different workers for food stamps, cash assistance, Medicaid coverage, help with collecting child support and help finding a job.

The new arrangement is meant to streamline that process, Schalansky said.

"Over the years, we've become our own little kingdoms where someone in food stamps, for example, says 'Sorry, all I do is food stamps. I don't know anything about medical cards.' We want to get away form that."

Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, welcomed news of the reorganization.

"One of the problems we've always had over there (at SRS) is that the different commissions tend to get pretty territorial, which makes it hard to get people to work together," Praeger said.

"I think this will make things better in the long run."

SRS has about 6,500 employees and a budget of more than $1.63 billion. The only Kansas government agency with a larger budget is the Department of Education, but most of its $2.5 billion is spent on aid to local school districts.

-- Dave Ranney's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail is dranney@ljworld.com.

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