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Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meetings scheduled to address closure of Lawrence’s SRS office; Brownback administration remains mum

July 7, 2011

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— Opposition continues to mount to the decision by Gov. Sam Brownback administration’s to shut down the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, at a meeting of the Douglas County Democratic Party, Robert Harder, the first and longest-serving director of SRS, will talk about the recent changes going on at SRS and how it will affect Kansans. The program will be at the Lawrence Public Library.

Then at 7 p.m. Monday, local legislators will host a public forum on the recent announcement to close the Lawrence SRS office. That meeting will take place at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.

Last week, SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. announced the closure of nine SRS offices as a cost-cutting move. The Lawrence office, with 87 employees, was by far the largest one.

Brownback said people served by the Lawrence office could use the Internet or travel to other cities for assistance. Siedlecki said the Lawrence office needed to be closed to capture the biggest savings: about $300,000.

But the Brownback administration has so far declined to discuss further details about the decision, despite repeated requests by the Journal-World to do so.

Comments

bertwilkey 2 years, 9 months ago

You haven't seen anything yet. SRS has more to come. Leadership at SRS are openly saying "people will be lost" and "we can't let compassion get in the way." Expect more facilities and service closures, including state mental health hospitals being sold to private, for profit companies. SRS believes the current system and providers of service are the problem and they are going to fix it. Unfortunately the traditional social structures who in the past provided for the health and welfare of the community can't or won't pick up the burden. This is not about money, it is about control. SRS is a scary place now. Employees are threatened if they speak out. Consumers who wish to appeal decisions get the "Chicago treatment" and are told they will not file appeals and threatened. Pray for our state.

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Centerville 2 years, 9 months ago

87 employees? How can that many people even fit in that building? Let alone find something to do all day?

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Kim Murphree 2 years, 9 months ago

Big B's reply to fan4ku is irrelevant--the key words "use to be provided" relegate this argument to a time long past when this nation had a poor population that was manageable by "family and church." That condition does not exist today. Factors that prohibit your solution: dramatic increase in the poor/needy population, drastic migration from churches due to mistrust and unpopularity of organized religion, continuing policies that increase the gap between the poor and the weathly, more and more families unable to support themselves. The population of those who need assistance has dramatically increased since the policies of the 1930's; policies created to give hope to the citizens of this country during a GREAT DEPRESSION; a condition caused by the policies of unregulated business practices that led to the collapse of the American economy. I am appalled at the lack of understanding of history by those who want to end the "welfare state" as if the need for a "welfare state" wasn't inherently tied to the practices of lassez faire economics. The Great Depression led to the New Deal (sound familiar, Wall Street?). And thank goodness--I remember my mother talking about how important those programs were to giving some hope and security to a demoralized population. Today we need these social programs more than ever. If we are to eliminate something, let's eliminate subsidies for corporations--NOT a tax increase when these entities are not paying the tax level already prescribed for them....the right wing never cries when subsidies for individuals are lifted---I find that ironic, too. The only real new evil entitlement in this country is the "entitlement" felt by some few very very wealthy that they are entitled to live without concern for the rest of the nation. That they are above the fray, that they should be able to create economic havoc for the rest of the country by making profit from burgeoning health care costs, futures trading on Wall Street, etc., without any repurcussions--that they can contribute to an economic recession & then blame it on the poor who have comparatively little nfluence on the fiscal health of this country--influence that can in no way compare to the fall of Enron, the banking institutions, et al. As if getting rid of welfare would have ANY real impact on the practices and policies that put us in this tailspin economically!! FICTION. Let's say NO to these people and their clamoring for more. That is the only evil entitlement that exists today. Let's focus on getting rid of THAT entitlement, shall we? The infrastructure for relief for the poor and suffering exists already at the state level, or at least it did before Brownback came along--it only makes sense to use it.

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camper 2 years, 9 months ago

The estimated savings for this closure were stated to be $300,000. This is really a small figure and even suggests that the office was operating efficiently. I had a friend who uses these services and I know this closure will hurt him. At the end of the month I'd sometimes help him with a few bucks for food or to cover a utility bill. This guy I know has severe issues and disabilities that are no fault of his and he is a good person. SRS has enabled him to lead a more normal life and work part-time. I can only imagine the squeeze this will put on him and can forsee him going the other way when he does not receive assistance. probably increased borrowing from friends and maybe even small crime.

But this is one case. I can only imagine families who don't have these issues as my friend. They may have to miss a few meals. Looking at the big picture, this closure will seem to only further stress existing agencies like law enforcement and also people who do what they can to voluntarily help.

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RubyVrooom 2 years, 9 months ago

I will be at the meeting. I'm being affected by this current administration from various angles. I'm certified to teach K-12 Art. With school budgets being cut art is often the first program to go- so here I am out of a job and there are very few to apply for. When one comes up the competition is huge. Other art jobs outside of the school system are scarce with the new lack of Arts funding in Kansas.

I am a single mother and now have two part-time jobs. Although we are used to living on the perfectly adequate income of a public school teacher, now my income is low enough that we qualify for (and very much need) food stamps. I also use SRS services for medicaid for my kids who would otherwise be uninsured.

What I don't understand is why we would be told that all interactions can be done on the internet or on the phone when a face-to-face interview is required for initial services and yearly reviews.

Also, I certainly hope they are improving their website functions. I have tried to use their internet services and even though I am more advantaged than the usual SRS client in that I am computer literate,educated, and have internet access at home I COULD NOT figure out how to apply online.

Another issue is that it is not as easy as picking up the phone and calling your caseworker. They usually don't answer. They are busy. You will get a call back when they can get to it, usually days later. Now they will have even more clients per worker and will be even busier.

I have a working car and would be able to drive to an office in another town if I needed to. But even for those with transportation this would require arranging (for some) time off of work in a climate where people are lucky to have a job, and it would require (for some) arranging and paying for child care.
I imagine this is going to be a nightmare for everyone involved.

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Edward Coan 2 years, 9 months ago

Rome was a Republic and looked what happened to them.

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citizen1 2 years, 9 months ago

For all this suddenly surprise by our elected officials representing Lawrence regarding the loss of the SRS office I find very political as they try to cover their own ineptitude. Where were they when this legislation was being written & implemented? Why were they not living in the offices of those deciding these closings?

Seems to me the question is who's ox is getting gored. So Lawrence should be spared while some other communities have their offices closed? If our elected representatives had strong positive relationships with the agencies & other legislatures then possibly things could be different.

We must remember we have a Republic as our form of government structure, not a Democracy. A Republic is a representative government. Why are we not asking our representatives about their effectiveness?

It is easy to blame the Brownback Administration for everything. That is just the way "politics" is played, everyone is always posturing.

We still have to reduce the cost of government at all levels. If we were to work to solve the SRS issue we, as a state, can come up with a more efficient SRS system of service delivery. Just screaming because Lawrence lost their local office is not going to meet the goal of cost reduction. Lets stop complaining and instead become problem solvers.

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RiverCityConservative 2 years, 9 months ago

I still remember that fateful night in 96 when Brownback eked out a close race with Jill Docking for Bob Dole's old Senate seat. Boy I miss Dole and the true moderates. Boy was that election result pivotal for Kansas politics. Unfortunately it is possible that the current governor truly represents the desires and feelings of the majority of Kansans. If so, this is going to be an interesting stand-off on a number of issues over the next 3-5 years as Kansans sort out who we are and what we really want and whether we want a priest or a politician leading us... :) God bless us every one. I hope Lawrence gets that SRS office back and I hope Planned Parenthood succeeds in court challenges. Those may well be the important defining battle lines. The governor sure brought some "smarts" back with him from D.C. Pulled some fast ones that are only now becoming evident.

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Kansass 2 years, 9 months ago

It's Friday again in Brownbackistan and Sams axe is sharp. Who's next?

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fan4kufootball 2 years, 9 months ago

I would really like to see the members of the community personally help those truely in need rather than send my tax dollar to the state and have them decide who needs help - remember at least half of each tax dollar is "eaten up" in the administration of the programs.

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Jim Williamson 2 years, 9 months ago

For a long time, I've said Sam was dumb. When Jim Kyun got elected to Congress, I said Sam must be excited to finally have someone around that he can feel smarter than. And I believe it. Sam is not a smart man.

That said, I really, truly don't think he understands things like, people who access SRS services take public transportation to the SRS office, so getting to Ottawa is nearly impossible. He doesn't know that most poor people don't have computers. He's never tried to navigate the web -- someone else does it for him -- so he doesn't get how hard it is to navigate the SRS system online.

I don't think he's being intentionally arrogant or thoughtless or cruel. He's just dumb as a box of rocks.

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bd 2 years, 9 months ago

I read in one of the first articles that this was an issue that was brought up by the previous administation?

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Clay 2 years, 9 months ago

Does the state have the right to continue to balance the budget on the backs of the homeless population, single parents (some of whom are both), people with disabilities or even middle class people who have had a bad break and need services to get back on their feet?

Is it okay to continue to de-localize our communities so that the experience for the workers giving out assistance is so depersonalized and overworked that they aren't able to do a good-enough job?

What about expedited services like food stamps for people with very little income and medical assistance for pregnant women? Has that been possible in the communities where the other SRS offices have been shut down? How has this hatcheting of social services impacted those communities?

Exactly where were the other 4-5 rounds of cuts? Who wasn't able to get their services from programs that have federally funded dollars in those communities?

Where are the personal stories from Wamego, for example? Let's join with other Kansas communities who have braved this assault to those in poverty.

Thank you larrytowngirl for your response to my former request. It's easier to talk from our intellect where we're safe of others judgements. Personal stories are needed.

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LadyJ 2 years, 9 months ago

I am sure that social workers will have to travel to Lawrence now since clients cannot come to them, or for court appearances. What about supervised visits with children? How is that going to work? Don't they visit children in foster care? My point is, have they done a cost analysis on the travel cost and extra time it takes to come to Lawrence?

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januarygirl 2 years, 9 months ago

ONE WORD-- ARROGANCE--- !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Gandalf 2 years, 9 months ago

Nope, there is no place in the budget of Kansas that they can shave to save a few bucks.

$1,000 a Square Foot

Kansans will have a single remodeled statehouse after spending that could easily top $300 million (rapidly approaching $1,000 per square foot) by the time the project is completed sometime in the next decade. Huelskamp warned taxpayers, "You can't go over budget if you have no budget."

http://www.heartland.org/budgetandtax-news.org/article/21680/Kansas_Statehouse_Remodeling_Bill_Keeps_Soaring.html

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usnsnp 2 years, 9 months ago

So now the library will become the SRS office for lawrence, I guess that is oneway to get more people into the library. Also I think the Governor should come to lawrence and demonstrate how easy it is to use the Internet to work with other SRS offices and how easy it is to travel from lawrence to other cities to visit SRS offices. All the people that think it is easy of to conduct buisness with a state office over the internet should try it, or try and get to an SRS office in another city if you do not have a car. How many of you could take a whole day off work to trave to another city to conduct personnel buisness.

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Paula Kissinger 2 years, 9 months ago

"I assume that those of you who have continued to take the time to complain and go on and on about this for the past few days will also take the time to attend the meeting to voice your concerns in person."

I will.

"Boo hoo Grandma! Walk down to the public library for free internet. Rent a new release dvd while you are there."

Not necessary, thank you. I have a vehicle and AT&T Uverse.

My point is not necessarily for the indigent/unemployed/undereducated individuals who rely, for whatever reason, on the local SRS office. It is not even for the children of those individuals for they will be cared for via US mail. I know of very fewlow income individuals that do not have or have access to a phone and most business can be conducted in that manner.

My complaint is that the mentally ill who receive services have done well to get and retain their services through the local office. They are, by nature of their illness, resistant to change and have difficulty with new ventures. It will be very difficult for them to continue as has been their past when it is taken away from them and they will have to move forward into a certain unknown. Many will fall through the cracks and become victims of the change. This is a fact.

I am not a tree-hugging, liberal, cry-baby. I have a dedication to those that cannot speak for themselves and if those of you who do not have the comprehension of the magnitude of this ridiculous cost-saving plan do not get this perhaps you need someone to speak for you as well. This is a huge mistake. There are other reasonable adjustments that can be made. I hope other individuals will also attend these meetings to voice their concerns and possible solutions. It is our responsibility as members of society that see something that will cause harm to our fellow citizens and bring it to light before it is out of hand.

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greywolf85203 2 years, 9 months ago

"Brownback said people served by the Lawrence office could use the Internet or travel to other cities for assistance" Okay 80% of the people that recieve services take the bus to get there. Is Brownback willing to use some of that 300,000 to provide busing to other cities. Why don't you cut the congresses pay for a change!!!!! Go ahead but the working people that produce your food, clothing and gas in poverity even more. Please do Kansas a favor and NOT run for relection!

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Dan Eyler 2 years, 9 months ago

Not those mean old Koch brothers again

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

get the school district to donate a recently closed school for $1.00 like they did for the boys club. this closing might not be as political as everyone thinks. $300K a year might partially cover the rent where SRS is at now. free sounds better.

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Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 9 months ago

Be sure to videotape Dr. Harder's speech and put it on the web!

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Chris Ogle 2 years, 9 months ago

What's going on in this state?? What really hurts is, , the folks that sincerely need the help are the least likely to speak up. . Maybe Brownback should visit some kids that (as a last resort) depend on the SRS.. Or maybe we (taxpayers) should voice our concerns with Brownback. We pay a buttload of taxes for wasteful spending...... but this certainly isn't one of them

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deec 2 years, 9 months ago

If the SR employees are, in fact, "reassigned" to other offices, they won't be saving any money on wages, which I would think is a huge chunk of the $300K. Just for argument's sake, suppose the average wage is $20K x 87 employees=$174K.

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LH3867 2 years, 9 months ago

Dr. Harder is a great man and is a legend at SRS, very respected. I will be there because I know we will get straight answers and it is time we did. If everyone on here really cares about what is going on, they will be there as well. Sadly, SRS employees are too fearful to attend. They continue to be threatened.

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droppinplates 2 years, 9 months ago

I assume that those of you who have continued to take the time to complain and go on and on about this for the past few days will also take the time to attend the meeting to voice your concerns in person.

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Jan Rolls 2 years, 9 months ago

So what if real estate prices are high the welfare of our citizens should be the main concern. Johnnyreb speaks for itself.

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none2 2 years, 9 months ago

One thing I find curious... The mentioning of saving $300,000.00. Is it possible that the reason they are moving out the Lawrence SRS office isn't about politics nor logistics but simply the fact that real estate prices in Douglas County are very high?

I'm not saying it is, but we should keep that in mind. (I would however have to say that I would think Johnson County would also have high real estate prices.)

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johnnyreb 2 years, 9 months ago

Does anyone outside of the extreme left-wing really care what Bob Harder thinks? Maybe he can provide some great insight from 25 years ago when he was still relevant in the debate.

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toe 2 years, 9 months ago

The SRS office would make a great homeless shelter.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 9 months ago

Clearly the Brownbackwards Administration has political motives in this decision, Lawrence and Douglas County for the most part do not support his drive to create a theocracy in Kansas. His rreligiously motivated acts and decisions bear this out. The poeple of Kansas elected a sub-par senator and got a sub-par governer .

This is what you get when you people seem to think that these theocrats are going to act in their best interests and pray to some deity to smooth over their recklessness.

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Clark Coan 2 years, 9 months ago

It just doesn't make sense to make hundreds if not thousands of low-income residents travel to Ottawa. There are far fewer clients in Ottawa, so the burden on that city would be less. Also, the DA says he needs SRS workers to interview children in child abuse cases.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 9 months ago

Meanwhile, if you need to talk to folks at SRS in Topeka you can shuttle back and forth between two offices that are a few blocks apart.

Maybe they don't have any of them fancy automobiles in Topeka or the tubes where the world wide web goes.

Il Marrone's real reasoning here -- to get people who use SRS in Lawrence to marry people in Topeka. Two birds with one stone!

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Paula Kissinger 2 years, 9 months ago

I have a prior commitment on Saturday but will definitely make it to the meeting Monday night and so should everyone else in the city of Lawrence. This is not about transients, derelicts and illegals...this about your community and your citizens being deprived of services they need. Use the internet or ravel for assistance ? Are you kidding ? The people who are most likely to utilize the services do not have a computer or a vehicle or have one that is broken and they are financially unable to have repairs made or they are mentally challenged and have done good so far to make it to the local SRS office. This is one of the most idiotic moves I have seen.

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