Topeka Two victims of a notorious treatment center Thursday urged lawmakers to increase protections of mentally ill Kansans.
"If the state does not fix the system, then it will mean that all of the abuse that we and others went through meant nothing," said Nancy, who prefers not to use her last name.
Nancy and Lynn, both of Wichita, said they were victims of a treatment center operated in Newton by Arlan Kaufman and his wife, Linda.
The Kaufmans, who ran the center for more than 20 years, were recently found guilty of health care fraud, Medicaid fraud, forced labor and holding clients in involuntary servitude. Arlan Kaufman was sentenced to 30 years in prison, his wife to seven.
Prosecutors contended the Kaufmans enslaved their clients, forcing them to work naked and perform sex acts.
Lawmakers are considering legislation to increase monitoring of treatment centers.
Lynn and Nancy said the legislation must require that reports of allegations of abuse or neglect of people with disabilities be sent to both the attorney general's office and the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, an advocacy agency.
They also said lawmakers need to provide $1.2 million to the attorney general's office and Disability Rights Center for investigations and enforcement.
Without the records sharing and increased funding "there will be future Kaufman houses and future victims," Nancy said.
Atty. Gen. Phill Kline also called the increased funding "vitally important" to establish a special investigative unit.
"Had the residents of the Kaufman house had this type of independent unit watching out for them, countless acts of abuse and neglect may have been prevented over nearly two decades," Kline said.
The proposals are stuck in a House-Senate conference committee and have drawn opposition from several groups.
The Kansas Health Care Assn., which represents nursing homes and other long-term care providers, said the measure could lead to an increased number of lawsuits based on complaints that aren't criminal in nature.
"It will obviously increase health costs," said Cindy Luxem, a spokeswoman for the association.
Luxem said the Kaufman incident was "a terrible, ugly situation." But, she noted, the Kaufman center was unlicensed.
She said licensed facilities' reports are constantly scrutinized by the attorney general's office and other state agencies.
Luxem opposed allowing the Disability Rights Center to share records. "The bill sets up an unprecedented relationship involving free exchange of information about substantiated and unsubstantiated complaints between the attorney general's office and an outside entity," she said.
But Nancy and Lynn said the combined forces of the attorney general's office and Disability Rights Center helped shut down the Kaufman house.
Nancy called for an end to the "political game-playing" so the legislation can be approved. Lawmakers return for the wrap-up session April 26.