Topeka — Increased services and better pay for caregivers were among the top priorities announced Thursday for Kansans with disabilities.
"The state has many programs that need funding, but I do not know of any program that is more important than helping someone in need," said Kathy Lobb, consumer advocate for the Lawrence-based Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas.
The Big Tent Coalition, which includes numerous organizations, outlined a $40 million package of funding programs and reforms for the 2008 legislative session that starts in January.
Top on the list was providing home- and community-based services to about 1,300 people who have developmental disabilities and are on a waiting list for those services.
The coalition also said it would seek increased state funding to provide a pay raise to caregivers who earn on average from $7 to $10 per hour. The group said it also would like to explore whether caregivers, who work for various organizations, could gain access to the state employee health insurance plan.
Mike Oxford, with Kansas ADAPT, said many of the proposals would bring Kansas in compliance with federal law requiring services to people with disabilities.
"There's no excuse not to comply with federal law," he said.
Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, a resource network for people with disabilities, said because state tax revenue is climbing, many of the recommendations should be enacted.
"It's a matter of priority setting," he said.