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Archive for Monday, April 25, 2011

Statehouse Live: KNI supporters pack church to protest Brownback plan to close facility

April 25, 2011, 9:52 p.m. Updated April 25, 2011, 10:11 p.m.

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— More than 250 people packed a church on Monday to urge Gov. Sam Brownback to keep open a state hospital for those with profound disabilities.

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki Jr. and Joan Kelley pray on Monday night during a meeting at the First Congregational Church in Topeka. The church was packed with supporters of the Kansas Neurological Institute, which Siedlecki's boss, Gov. Sam Brownback, has proposed to shut down to save money. Kelley's grandson is a resident of KNI. She urged Siedlecki and Brownback not to take the "low-road." She said, "We serve a creative God and there are many solutions."

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki Jr. and Joan Kelley pray on Monday night during a meeting at the First Congregational Church in Topeka. The church was packed with supporters of the Kansas Neurological Institute, which Siedlecki's boss, Gov. Sam Brownback, has proposed to shut down to save money. Kelley's grandson is a resident of KNI. She urged Siedlecki and Brownback not to take the "low-road." She said, "We serve a creative God and there are many solutions."

Brownback has proposed shutting down the Kansas Neurological Institute as one of many cost-cutting moves in the face of an estimated $500 million state budget gap.

But parents of KNI residents, politicians, doctors and clergy said such a move would be immoral and end up costing the state more money.

"This is not acceptable behavior," state Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, said of Brownback's proposal. "Kansans are better than that," he said.

Many in the crowd at the First Congregational Church responded, saying "Amen." Some of them wore buttons that said, "Respect Life. Keep KNI Open."

Kansas legislators reconvene the 2011 legislative session on Wednesday to write a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Brownback proposed phasing out KNI over a two-year period and moving the 155 residents there to community-based group homes.

The Legislature, however, has rejected the proposal. But the issue remains in the air and many KNI supporters say they fear that even if the Legislature funds KNI, Brownback will still move to shut it down through his administrative authority.

"Even when the gavel comes down and ends the 2011 legislative session, that doesn't mean the issue is finished," said state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

Brownback's point-man on the issue, Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki Jr., attended the meeting and sat on the front row with key members of his staff.

After the meeting, Siedlecki said he respected the concerns and passion brought by those connected to KNI. "I came here to listen," he said as he spoke with people who attended the event.

"This is not an easy issue," he said, adding that Brownback takes seriously the concerns of advocates of KNI.

Speakers argued that closing KNI would not save any money because many of the residents would end up requiring more acute care hospital stays. Of the residents at KNI, 90 percent have profound disabilities and the remaining have severe disabilities. Eighty-three percent cannot speak, 68 percent are unable to walk; 76 percent have seizures; 85 percent require help to use the toilet and one-third are fed via tubes.

"There is no good financial reason to close, and there certainly is no good moral reason to close it," said state Sen. Kelly.

The Topeka facility, spread over 180 acres, has an annual budget of approximately $29 million, with nearly $11 million coming from state tax funds.

Some disability rights groups have argued that moving residents to more community-based group homes, would improve their quality of life, and that shutting down the facility would free up some funds for others with disabilities who are on waiting lists.

But several parents of KNI residents said they had tried community-based group homes and had terrible experiences because of inadequately trained employees at those homes. Their children didn't receive the care they needed, they said.

KNI employees are better trained, and there is less employee turnover because they earn more than those working in private homes, they said.

Dr. Kevin Sundbye, the medical director at KNI, noted that when Brownback was a U.S. senator, he was one of the nation's leading voices to help people in war-torn Sudan. Sundbye said Brownback needed to do the same thing for residents of KNI.

Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen, who organized the meeting, said the state must find the needed revenues for KNI instead of forcing groups to fight one another for funding.

"When we pit those who are receiving services against those who are not receiving services, we are appealing to the meanest aspects of human nature," he said. "We are saying there is a scarcity and because there is a scarcity, everyone fights for a piece of the pie," he said.

Comments

Mark Zwahl 3 years, 9 months ago

Let's see... $29 million yearly. 155 residents. That means it's costing taxpayers over $187,000 per year or $512 per day per person. So you can see why it's a target.

I agree that community agencies are also underfunded and ill prepared for some of these folks, but not all of them. I wonder what $100,000 a year would get us in the community?

CKKovach 3 years, 9 months ago

That number is also not out of line with what it would cost to provide minimally adequate care in a nursing home. The average annual cost for a nursing home is more than $60,000, and that's for people who don't require constant supervision, aren't on feeding tubes and who can be attended more-or-less adequately by nursing aides with minimal training. Giving the profoundly disabled the care they need is expensive. There is no way to sugarcoat that. There is also no way to sugarcoat the fact that the choice is between giving what they need and allowing them to fall victim to our indifference.

People who think this is too expensive have every right to argue that they feel no personal obligation on this issue and see no reason to have their tax dollars spent this way. Those of us who do feel a personal obligation have every right to argue that society must step up to the plate. In the end our common values will decide what we choose to do, and the kind of society we we leave behind for our children.

KStoCAHippie 3 years, 9 months ago

"with nearly $11 million coming from state tax funds."

The article appears to indicate that its $11 million come from the state taxpayers. That'd be about $71,000 a year, $195 a day out of taxpayer money. Beyond that, I'm guessing that given the situation KNI would probably be willing to work a bit to help lower their budget. I'm sure that won't change your mind. I have to agree with CKKovach... though to be a bit more blunt, if you feel like kicking severely handicapped people to curb to save yourself what would probably be a couple of bucks in taxes each year, be my guest.

Personally, I think all of these cuts to "entitlements" nation wide show exactly what kind of people a lot of Americans are... when put in a crunch, they'll cut anyone but then own throats to save themselves 4 bucks a year. Oh... until it's THEIR kid who can't wipe their own ass or feed themselves, than, by God, they'll want every cent they can get.

Sleep well.

kansanbygrace 3 years, 9 months ago

The process of decentralizing and sending the people who need these helps to "community-based services" has not done very well for those people with less profound challenges. I fail to see how these people who need more help and more skill-demanding help will be able to maintain the little they have, if we follow the same logic. It's not just money that matters. People matter more.

BorderRuffian 3 years, 9 months ago

This whole thing is patently idiotic! Perhaps it DOES cost a lot to care for these people. But the key word ought to be PEOPLE, not COST. If the alternative is to place these persons in homes where they will not receive the care they need, why is it even called an alternative?

Even I, not being the typical bleeding heart Larryville liberal, am filled with disgust at any who would make cuts in the life-quality of these persons.

gracecountry62 3 years, 9 months ago

I am one that does support the home base homes give the folks a better quality of life for their loved ones but working as a manager in a group home ran by CLO Community living opportunities in Lawrence brings a great deal of concern for those in the care of CLO. The record shows that this agency has a lack of training to the staff and practically hires anyone off the streets. The college students do not have the knowledge to to direct care but only there for the pay check until school is out . I heard this from the administration myself. Though I do believe in the home base mission I do not believe in abuse . There was an incident where a client had been in their care in a ICF home for many years, The House parents that were actually the best they ever had in that home never received the support from certain administrators so they left . The client in question was able to function as well as you and I but then there was a great deal of abuse that took place . The client was beaten and end up having a stroke and was not able to eat nor use the bathroom on her own as she has done in the past up to that point. Her parents trusted CLO for over 10 yrs but that trust ended when the occurrences took place . she is having to learn to walk again as well as eat this happened at a local home base home in the care of CLO. She is now at Parsons State hospital and is with a great group of folks that are well trained and have a calling to help these folks in need. Her parents are much thankful for her return to Parsons where they do have group homes and a professional staff that really cares about her and not just earning a paycheck. I support the decision to keep open the facility in question it has what the people need and that is love and real support where a dedicated staff and not an agency that lost their vision that they once had and hand out a pay check for who ever will come. I think agencies as of CLO should take the cuts and allow the facilities to take in more revenue to truly dedicated care .

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