A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services said Friday that the decision to close the SRS office in Lawrence was the result of “a very detailed process that was thought out and researched and examined.”
Please do tell us more about this “detailed process” that led to the closure of the SRS office in Lawrence and eight other Kansas communities. By what calculation does it make sense to close the SRS in the state’s sixth largest city, a city with close to double the population of the other eight communities combined?
How much money will closing the Lawrence office actually save? SRS officials say all of the 87 Lawrence positions will be transferred to other offices and not eliminated, so the state apparently won’t save anything on salaries.
SRS officials say that clients who currently come to the Lawrence office will be expected to mostly depend on phone and Internet connections to maintain their services, but sometimes face-to-face contact is required to determine what services are needed and to confirm that recipients are meeting SRS requirements. How much mileage will be paid to case workers based in Ottawa or Overland Park to oversee clients currently served in Lawrence?
As part of its review, SRS determined that all the communities that will lose their offices have public libraries that provide public Internet access, as well as other SRS “access points” where people can receive information about services and applications for assistance. The “access points” may be nothing more at this point than a stack of SRS brochures.
Who will be responsible for helping people access services over the Internet or otherwise? Will that duty fall to already overburdened nonprofit agencies in the community? Or maybe to agencies like the library and health department that are supported by city and county tax dollars? Perhaps the SRS cost-cutting strategy is simply to make it so difficult for people to access SRS services that they simply give up and try to do without.
Lawrence residents were understandably stunned by the SRS announcement, which came the day before the three-day July Fourth holiday. The decision made so little sense that many local people have jumped to the conclusion that it can only be explained as some kind of political payback to a county that often votes Democratic and sends Democratic legislators to the Kansas Statehouse. We certainly hope there is a more reasonable explanation.
Lawrence and Douglas County residents are asking legitimate questions about this decision, and SRS officials owe them some answers that are just as “detailed” as their decision-making process.