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Archive for Monday, October 19, 2009

Social services struggle with cuts

Agencies hope they won’t suffer more budget reductions

October 19, 2009

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Public schools and higher education get much of the attention in the debate over what to do about the state budget crisis. Together, they account for approximately two-thirds of state expenses.

But the state’s network of social services designed to help the most vulnerable of Kansans has been hit hard by budget cuts, and any further cuts would mean thousands of Kansans would lose services, according to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Already, more than 3,500 Kansans with developmental and physical disabilities are on waiting lists for state assistance to provide the supports and services they need to stay at home instead of going to a nursing home.

The list of people has become larger and the waits for those people are now longer because of budget cuts.

Under the program that provides home and community-based services for developmentally disabled people, 1,863 people are on the waiting list. Currently, the people at the top of the waiting list have been there since June 27, 2005. The average number of people served per month in this program is 7,188.

Under another program, the physical disability waiver, another 1,382 people are on the waiting list. The average number of people served per month in this program is 7,210. There are 275 children waiting for autism services — only 45 are being served. Since this program was implemented on Jan 1, 2008, 53 children who had been on the waiting list “aged off” before services could begin.

SRS has 400 fewer positions than it did two years ago, and almost half of those were in the agency’s regional offices — the front lines where people try to get help. SRS staff have also taken salary cuts.

In its budget request to Gov. Mark Parkinson, SRS, like all agencies, was asked to provide information on what a 5 percent cut would do. SRS reported that such a cut would force it to eliminate many of the programs for those in need.

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