Archive for Friday, January 16, 2004

SRS secretary explains agency’s reorganization to lawmakers

Senate committee chairman wants review of associated costs

January 16, 2004


— Officials of the state's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services are pleased with the progress of a reorganization toward making the agency more accessible to clients, agency secretary Janet Schalansky said Thursday.

But the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee said he still had questions and wanted to review SRS costs in each county.

Under the reorganization, SRS plans to close 62 of its 105 county offices by mid-2005 and cut its regional offices from 11 to six.

At the same time, however, the agency will have a presence at more than 400 public places -- such as libraries, grocery stores and health departments -- where Kansans may obtain information, apply for benefits or meet with SRS workers.

Schalansky said clients would be better served by not having to travel to central offices for services.

"I think we're moving in the right direction," she said in testimony to the committee.

By the end of 2003, SRS had closed 30 county offices and announced plans to consolidate regional offices. An additional 20 county offices are to be closed by the end of June and the final 12 by July 2005.

But the committee's chairman, Sen. Steve Morris, said he wanted to examine whether SRS employees would be spending more time traveling, which would raise mileage expenses.

Morris also said he had heard complaints that some access points lacked adequate equipment, such as computers, fax machines or phones.

"I think there's still some glitches here and there," said Morris, R-Hugoton.

Schalansky said the reorganization would require some SRS employees to drive farther to get to an office.

"In some instances, they are driving to their base stations on their own time and at their own expense," Schalansky said, adding, "There are still staff who are unhappy about it."

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