Gov. Sam Brownback defends decision to close Kansas Neurological Institute

Governor-elect Sam Brownback is interviewed in his transitional office at the Statehouse in Topeka. Brownback will take office as the new governor of Kansas Jan. 10, 2011.

? Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday defended his proposal to shut down the Kansas Neurological Institute, a residential facility that cares for approximately 150 people with profound disabilities.

Under his plan, residents would be moved into community-based housing over a two-year period starting in July.

“No one in KNI is going to be put out on the streets,” said Brownback, who toured the Topeka facility last week.

And he has the support of several groups that advocate on behalf of those with disabilities.

Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said savings from the more expensive care at KNI would go a long way toward eliminating waiting lists of Kansans with disabilities who need in-home services. Brownback said he could not commit to placing all the money saved from closing KNI into services for those with disabilities.

But Brownback, a Republican, is getting strong push back from members of both parties.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said KNI is serving people who cannot be served elsewhere.

“We are talking about the most vulnerable citizens” who require round-the-clock assistance from trained staff. Nearly 500 people work at KNI. “It’s about the quality of life for people who live there,” Hensley said.

Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, also opposes Brownback’s plan.

“With the investment it would take to replace the services and facilities provided by KNI, I’m not convinced it would save the state money, either immediately or in the long run,” Patton said.