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Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Director: Social services can ‘hold on’

Waiting lists remain, but budget intact

January 21, 2004

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— This year's meeting went better than last year's.

"If you remember, at this time last year we'd already gone through three budget reductions," state welfare Secretary Janet Schalansky said Tuesday, addressing more than 100 people. A mix of advocates, program directors and state workers met for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services' meeting on the budget proposed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

"We're in a better position now -- both in terms of the budget and in comparison with other state agencies," Schalansky said.

There's not much new money, she said. But there aren't many cuts either. For most in the audience, that was good news.

"We're holding our own, and I consider that to be progress," said Bruce Beale, executive director at DCCCA, a Lawrence-based program that provides family preservation services in the eastern half of the state. "As long as we're not sliding backward, we can hold on until the economy improves."

Currently, almost 1,100 disabled adults are on waiting lists for SRS-funded services, many for more than a year. The governor's proposed budget doesn't solve that problem.

"We are pleased with the gains that have been made," said Shannon Jones, spokeswoman for the Big Tent Coalition, an association of more than 80 groups representing the poor, elderly and disabled. "But this by no means eliminates the waiting lists, which, from our perspective, is unacceptable."

Jones said she was disappointed the governor's office was moving ahead with plans to drop more than 400 disabled adults who have been on the state's MediKan and General Assistance programs for more than two years.

"This continues to be a point of despair for a lot of Kansans," Jones said. "These are people who, without GA and MediKan, are going to fall through whatever is left of the safety net. Without GA and MediKan, they'll have nothing."

Janet Schalansky, left, state welfare secretary, talks with Paul
Johnson, director of the Public Assistance Coalition of Kansas. The
two attended a meeting Tuesday to discuss the budget proposed by
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Janet Schalansky, left, state welfare secretary, talks with Paul Johnson, director of the Public Assistance Coalition of Kansas. The two attended a meeting Tuesday to discuss the budget proposed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Schalansky promised to look for ways to prevent many of the 400 from becoming homeless. All are poor, childless adults. Many are mentally ill and unable to work.

Late last month, a Sedgwick County judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the planned Jan. 1 cutoff. SRS officials have until Jan. 30 to file a legal response to a lawsuit challenging the cutoff. The restraining order remains in effect.

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