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Archive for Monday, July 18, 2011

Statehouse Live: City, county officials ask Brownback to reconsider SRS office closure

July 18, 2011

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— City and county officials today asked Gov. Sam Brownback to reconsider the planned closure of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services office in Lawrence.

In a letter, written on behalf of the Lawrence city commission and Douglas County commissioners, officials say that many will lose SRS services and already strained agencies will be further strained.

"We write specifically to request complete reconsideration of the closure," says the letter signed by Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell and Jim Flory, chair of the Douglas County commissioners.

"It is imperative that the Department not only maintain services in our community, but that those service be provided by keeping the existing office intact rather than simply providing a presence in Lawrence, or expecting our residents to travel to other SRS regional offices to obtain services," the letter said.

The letter says those seeking SRS services are the least likely to be able to travel or use the Internet.

Brownback and his SRS Secretary Robert SIedlecki Jr. have said the closure of the Lawrence office and eight smaller ones across the state are needed to save money. They have said those receiving services can travel to other SRS offices in nearby cities or use the Internet.

Public outcry over the Lawrence closure has been extensive. Meetings on the issue over a one-week period have drawn more than 1,000 people.

On Tuesday, Douglas County commissioners are scheduled to hear from local agencies to assess what additional costs they will face if the SRS office is shut down.

"We need to assess what the cost impacts are on the local entities," said County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

"It would seem to be a relevant consideration for the state to consider as a part of their closing decision. Hopefully that information will be helpful as they hopefully evaluate whether this would be a good decision for the Kansas taxpayer," he said.

Comments

LHS56 3 years, 5 months ago

yes....good they are stating the need. However, I'm afraid Brownback has made up his mind. He remind me of a mule. It will take time and effort on everyones part to get his attention. Time to bury Topeka with e-mails. I've yet to hear anything from Marci. Perhaps my fault and I've simply missed her comments. However, she use to be the voice of the people. Her silence concerns me.

kernal 3 years, 5 months ago

You can bet she's been getting hundreds of emails, so don't take it personally or jump to conclusions. Knowing her history and work ethic, I have no qualms about her not doing what she was elected her to do.

sweetiepie 3 years, 5 months ago

Apparently the SRS office in Lawrence is paying an exorbitant amount for rent, which didn't help when they were deciding which offices to close. Maybe if the city came up with a cheaper place and dangled that out there the Gov might reconsider.

chootspa 3 years, 5 months ago

Not only has it come out that they may not be able to terminate the lease, that wasn't a point of discussion before the decision. Nothing was. Had they asked the people for solutions instead of closing the office and coming up with the reasons later, I'm sure the city could have stepped up to the plate.

Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

The same guy that rents the property for SRS here in Lawrence is renting to SRS in Ottawa. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

While you are right that Lawrence will probably not have much impact on Brownback's decisions, I have to wonder how we have plenty of money for massive statehouse renovations, massive road projects, hiring outside counsel instead of using the AG, etc. but none for social services.

Seems like a matter of priorities to me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

"Entitlements." I always love it when Republicans resort to euphemisms when they want to cut funding for the most vulnerable among us, resulting in a good deal of suffering and hardship.

As much as you may want to, you can't just sweep these people under the carpet.

Steve Bunch 3 years, 5 months ago

This decision had nothing to do with budgetary concerns. It was meant to punish Lawrence. Period. No amount of demonstrating, letter writing, etc., will sway the man because he knows he can write off Lawrence and still get campaign funding and votes. Of course, on a larger scale, the decision to cut the SRS budget--not just the Lawrence office--is part of the ongoing war on the weak and the poor. We live in a moronocracy manipulated by the mean and mendacious. It's really that simple.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

"However, I assure you that the state of Kansas has not declared nor is it waging a clandestine war against the weak and or the poor."

What rock have you been living under?

Centerville 3 years, 5 months ago

Check out the LJW Oct 10, 2003. That's when Sibileus announced consolidating Lawrence, Ottawa and Overland Park and closing 37 more SRS county offices. Brownback just took the baton on this one.

lunacydetector 3 years, 5 months ago

this letter is all lip service.

here's a suggestion that nobody will offer. it is savvy and it is a put up or shut up proposal just to see if brownback did this for poltical reasons:

dear governor brownback, we have pooled all of the intellectuals within our community and have come up with a simple solution to the budgetary issues facing s.r.s. and your need to close our local office.

we offer you one of our recently closed schools which is handicapped accessible, for free. whatdya say about them apples?

sincerely yours, lawrence........the island of love

the $300K cannot be used as an excuse anymore. they have rent free space, and the people of lawrence still has s.r.s.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 5 months ago

Though I do applaud the effort from local leaders in appealing to the so-called governor to rethink his decision to close the local SRS location, I must say, what was quoted in LJW about what the letter says seems more than just a bit lack-luster to me. The language is too soft, and offers no alternatives. Nor does it really explain the negative impact that losing the office would have on Lawrence and the surrounding communities.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

Brownback wants to privatize as much of government as possible because that is where his campaign money is located. Brownback is a Facist who hides behind the words republican and God.

Where is the most reliable source of fraud?

USA private industry...

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

Webster's has a different definition:

"A tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control"

tecuani 3 years, 5 months ago

Nice. You took a definition from wikipedia...

I hope you realize just how ignorant that makes you look.

bertwilkey 3 years, 5 months ago

Just hold on to your hats....this is just the beginning of changes at SRS, including privatizing stae mental health hospitals ( or closing them), reducing Medicaid, 50's dress codes for state employees ( those proposals are already at DOA), and on and on. I supported the him with a moderate image, but I wish I had my money back. His people are mean spiritied. "Don't let compassion get in the way".

Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

-- THE HAYS DAILY NEWS Hays, Kansas July 8, 2011

Changing SRS

Since 1973, the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has been tasked with the mission of protecting the state's children and promoting adult self-sufficiency. Through its oversight of social services and state institutions, SRS serves more than half a million Kansans.

We're not sure if the agency's mission itself is changing under Secretary Rob Siedlecki, but the methods of carrying out that mission certainly are. Since being appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback, Siedlecki has been reinventing the safety net SRS is supposed to provide. The pair's shared commitment to a "culture of life" and the utility of faith-based initiatives might render that safety net unrecognizable, however.

With the start of the new fiscal year and the requirement to find more than $40 million in savings, SRS' transformation is in full swing. So far, SRS has announced it would:

  • Reduce the number of county social services offices from 42 to 33.

  • Consolidate the six administrative regions to four.

  • Terminate Larned State Hospital Superintendent Robert Connell and Osawatomie State Hospital Superintendent Greg Valentine.

  • Lay off or accept the retirements of several other agency officials.

  • Cut all contracts and grants by 3 percent.

  • Eliminate all funding for the Kansas Consumer Advisory Council for Adult Mental Health.

  • Eliminate approximately $1 million for several other grants and contracts for mental health services.

  • Reduce Medicaid reimbursements by 2.5 percent for social services and mental health treatments (currently on hold).

  • Consider the possibility of using voucher programs for services.

  • Explore the possibility of either privatizing or closing the Kansas Neurological Institute, a state hospital for the severely developmentally disabled.

  • Create a division for promoting faith-based and community initiatives.

  • Reduce the number of beds at Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City.

  • Stop accepting referrals to any state hospital already overcrowded.

"We don't know where SRS is taking us," said Amy Campbell, executive director of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.

We believe we have an inkling. It appears SRS is going to effect significant savings at the state level, even though the need for services throughout the state is increasing. The costs associated with providing mental health and social services cut by the state will be transferred to the local level.

If cities and counties decide to pick up the tab, expect steady increases in property taxes. If cities and counties don't, then law enforcement agencies will be forced to use more of their resources. Which will lead to steady increases in property taxes. (Cont.):

Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

(Cont.):

In short, anything SRS or the governor will claim they saved taxpayers simply won't be true. The money still will be coming out of taxpayer pockets. And likely it will be even more than before this shell game began.

To be fair, Gov. Brownback and Secretary Siedlecki are not just about cutting programs and services. Siedlecki said the department was developing a "fatherhood initiative" to help reduce childhood poverty.

And as then Sen. Brownback wrote in his book "From Power to Purpose, a Remarkable Journey of Faith and Compassion" in 2007, marriage is the best solution to the problems of overall poverty. This year, SRS is preparing to launch a Kansas Healthy Marriage Initiative.

To help develop the initiative, state taxpayers paid $13,000 to bring a group of conservative Christians from around the country to the Kansas Family Strengthening Summit last month.

The summit was closed to the general public. But the initiative is believed to include gathering baseline statistics, a training program for SRS workers, surveying the public and developing a PR campaign. Nobody has said how much the initiative would cost or how it would be funded.

And we haven't yet heard about the adoption initiative, although Brownback already might have revealed his plan in that arena when he attempted to revoke licenses for the clinics that provide abortion services.

Things are going from bad to worse in Topeka as far as we're concerned. That concern is shared by many in mental health, social agencies and law enforcement.

Strengthening religious beliefs is the job of the church -- not the state. They are separated for a reason.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.netp>plowry@dailynews.net>

Centerville 3 years, 5 months ago

In 2003, Sebelius advocated cutting 37 county offices and merging the Lawrence/Overland Park/Ottawa regional offices. I assume this letter is identical to one the city sent then, but with a new date and (thankfully) a new name.

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