Topeka A state commission Monday recommended closing the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka, which serves nearly 160 people with severe developmental disabilities.
If approved, the plan could shut down KNI within three years.
KNI residents would be transferred either to more community- or home-based settings or to Parsons State Hospital under the recommendation.
The measure, approved 7-3 by the Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission, will now go to Gov. Mark Parkinson. If Parkinson approves the recommendation and issues an executive order, the Legislature would have to pass a bill to stop it from going forward.
The plan also calls for downsizing Parsons State Hospital by moving residents into smaller group homes, although it wouldn’t close the hospital.
Supporters of the proposals said it would be better for the residents and save taxpayers’ money.
Parents and guardians of people served at KNI were upset by the commission’s vote.
Ann Perrin Riggs of Topeka is the guardian of a 28-year-old man with severe mental disabilities who lives at KNI. “We’ll see a huge rise in his behavioral problems,” she said, if he is forced to move.
Elizabeth Kinch, a member of the commission, voted to shut down KNI, saying, “Community-based services are superior.”
But Riggs said that was a false assumption. KNI is not an institution in the old sense of the word, she said, but rather has a committed staff and campuslike setting that provides the best care for some people with severe disabilities.
Panel members voting against the recommendation said they feared that moving people out of KNI and Parsons would exacerbate a waiting list of approximately 4,000 people with disabilities who are already waiting for home- and community-based services.
There are currently 158 residents at KNI and 191 at Parsons. State officials estimated $5.7 million could be saved annually by:
• Moving 40 KNI residents to Parsons and the rest to group homes.
• Finding group homes for 62 people who now live at Parsons.
Some commission members also speculated that if the state sold the KNI campus it would yield tens of millions of dollars.