Letters to the Editor

KNI closure

January 20, 2011


To the editor:

My wife, Ann Marshall-Levine, was superintendent of Kansas Neurological Institute for about eight years some time in the 1980s when the facility was larger than it is today. In her memory and on behalf of the remaining severely impacted residents, I urge Gov. Brownback to reconsider his budget proposal to close the facility.

On KNI’s 50th birthday, Ann and I revisited the remaining residents in their rooms in each of the remaining open buildings. Before any further action is taken, the governor ought to do the same. Speak with each resident. Tell them they will have to leave the protection of their room, the only home they know, tell them you can no longer feed them, protect them and can no longer allow them to work in the job programs that KNI has worked hard to provide for them. Tell them that the caring and loving KNI staff can no longer be with them to offer love and caring.

Gov. Parkinson had a different proposal that would leave KNI in place for at least three years. Perhaps that is an intermediate solution.

If, after talking with each of the residents, Gov. Brownback decides to close KNI he will at least be aware of what he does.


KEITHMILES05 7 years, 2 months ago

It'll be an absolute travesty of justice if KNI is closed. These are real people living there and their parents are elderly and unable to care for them. These residents have very, very severe disabilities and physical problems. It'll be a sad day in Kansas history if Brownback goes forth with this.

Mark Zwahl 7 years, 2 months ago

There will be impacts if KNI is closed. Some good. Some less than ideal. But last I knew, it was costing $400+ a day per person living there. The DD system has proven that the services offered there to most of the residents, can be provided cheaper outside the facility. Now, I'm not a fan of the community service providers here in Lawrence, but perhaps they at least won't do any worse than KNI for WAY less $$. Worth considering. And worth doing respectfully if done.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 2 months ago

Sowhatnow, My understanding is that is exactly what Parkinson decided: instead of setting up an arbitrary timetable, move folks into the community once you have the supports in place, which was going to take much longer than the original closure commission suggested. Now Brownback has rolled back the criteria-based placement process back to the arbitary timetable process, which is a potential disaster-in-the making for these folks. These are folks who need assistance 24-7, 365 days a year, so if the supports are not in place, it's a life-and-death issue, not just quality of life.

The other issue is, of course, that KNI provides extensive supports for the rest of the DD community. What happens to those services, especially considering how strapped community services already are?

kernal 7 years, 2 months ago

Cedar Crest, the governor's manson, has extra rooms. Perhaps Governor and Mrs. Brownback could house them there.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

According to my wife, who works with the DD population, it is generally not true that services can be provided cheaper outside of such institutions for people who need that much care.

And, of course, given the various budget cutting that is proposed regarding funding, where and how do you expect community based services to get the resources to help a new group of folks who basically need around the clock care?

BigDog 7 years, 2 months ago

Closure of a state hospital is never an easy process for anyone involved. Most of the same arguments made here were made when Winfield State Hospital and Norton State Hospitals (both served the same population as KNI) were closed. Those same residents are thriving in the community. Some of the most supportive people of the closure of Winfield now, are parents and family members who were rabidly opposed to closure before.

A study was done that followed Winfield residents for the year after leaving Winfield. The study showed the individuals were happier, healthier, and were on far less medications. And the costs were less .... not as much as some advocates claim though. The costs when you take into account medical costs and stuff because all out that is included in the instituational costs .... was something like $125,000 a year in Winfield vs $78,000 in community. It is not the 3 to 1 ration that some claim but it is significantly less.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 2 months ago

Big Dog, Do you know if there have been any follow-up surveys done for the folks who used to live at Winfield besides that one-year-out survey? That was in the early '90s and a lot of time has passed since then. Some enterprising grad student ought to get out there and see what the mortality/illness rates have been for those folks, along with parent satisfaction now that more than fifteen years have passed, and perhaps compare their satisfaction/health level with the Winfield folks who went to KNI after Winfield was closed.

BigDog 7 years, 2 months ago


I am not aware of any additional surveys/studies being done with residents who left Winfield.

In Winfield several of the community services programs that sprang up were founded by parents/guardians of residents of Winfield.

Hudson Luce 7 years, 2 months ago

Ideally, with freely-available abortion for fetuses who either have demonstrated DD or have a strong probability of DD, along with eugenic counseling and compulsory sterilization for parents who can pass on genetic DD genes, the need for places like KNI can go away in a generation or less.

Otherwise, someone is going to have to figure out a way to pay for the 24/7/365 care of these people for the rest of their natural lives - and some of them live to be 75 years old. Heretofore, it's been considered a charitable act and part of the common good, for the State to pick up the cost by apportioning taxpayer money to pay for regional facilities. Nowadays, subsidies for corporations and economic development seem to trump any notion of charity and common good - and two of the richest men in the world, multi-billionaires, live in Kansas...

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

It is not true that services can be provided cheaper in community settings. It will be cheaper because a lot of the services CAN'T be provided in the community programs. If they try to provide all the services they will be drained of funds required to provide the current level of services. If you are going to let them die because it is cheaper, then don't tell people they will be better off in a community home 'Tell them they will die faster and so it will save money. He should walk through the rooms and also meet the families. Look them in the face. This is not just closing KNI it is shifting the burden to improper community settings and like the mental health care which shifted to community level. The next ring of closures will be the community services.

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