Topeka A commission began taking testimony Monday on the possibility of closing one or both of Kansas’ two state institutions for the mentally and developmentally disabled.
The Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission was formed by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year to assess the future of a half-dozen state facilities.
The panel was meeting Monday and today at the Statehouse to hear from supporters of the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka and the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center.
Supporters say closing the facilities would create hardships for the residents and their families. Many of the residents require services that cannot be found in outpatient or in-home services, requiring 24-hour care.
Christy Caldwell, vice president of government relations for the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, said the residents need specialized medical and dental care, transportation, equipment and frequently special means for receiving food.
“These fragile Kansans need care around the clock. It is unlikely the community based facilities already have this level of care available in their locations across the state,” Caldwell said Monday.
She said moving residents would shift the costs of services from state hospitals to services funded through Medicaid and the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
State analysts have said that not all of the residents of either KNI or Parsons could be transferred to the remaining hospital. Parsons could accommodate 40 of the 156 residents at KNI, while the Topeka hospital could handle 39 of the Parsons residents. The remainder would be expected to live in smaller communities.
Rochelle Chronister, chairwoman for the commission, said “the future includes closing one of these institutions.” Chronister is a former legislator and SRS secretary.
The commission is also reviewing the potential closure of the Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan., the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe and Kansas School for the Blind in Kansas City, Kan.