Topeka State officials on Monday said the reorganization of two social welfare agencies will deliver better care more efficiently. They also said people who use those agencies shouldn't see any differences in how they access services.
“This is a momentous day in the history of Kansas government,” Gov. Sam Brownback said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony before a crowd of more than 100 people.
“This historic reorganization will ensure we serve the children and families of Kansas as well as older adults and persons with disabilities in ways suited to the unique needs of our state and the unique needs of those who depend upon state services and programs,” Brownback said. He had issued an executive order in February that set the stage for the reorganization, and the changes took effect with the start of the new state fiscal year.
Under the reorganization, the Department for Children and Families replaces the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Some of the former SRS functions have been moved to an expanded agency now called the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.
The DCF will deal with children and adult protection services, adoption services, foster care support, child support services, welfare and food assistance programs, and programs dedicated to vocational rehabilitation.
DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said the goal of the new agency will be to safely reduce the number of children in the state's care and keep families intact as much as possible.
The former Kansas Department on Aging has merged with the Disability and Behavioral Health Services Division of SRS and parts of the Health Occupations Credentialing Division.
The new Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services will administer services to older adults; mental health, addiction and prevention programs; state hospitals and institutions; home and community-based services waiver programs and some health occupations credentialing. It will be the second largest agency in state government, with a budget of $1.7 billion for the current fiscal year. The total includes $154.9 million for state hospitals.
“There are differences between the older adults and persons with disabilities whom we will serve under the new agency, but they also represent many common challenges: helping people to stay independent and healthy as long as possible, the need for quality housing and competent caregivers and the necessity of navigating a fragmented health care system,” said KDADS Secretary Shawn Sullivan.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said the reorganization was key to the administration's proposal to reform the $2.9 billion Medicaid system.
“As we worked to improve services and health outcomes, we realized that the state agencies and programs involved needed to be streamlined to better facilitate their functions and communications," he said.
Brownback's administration issued contracts last week to three private companies to manage Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, elderly and those with disabilities. The proposal is being reviewed by the federal government.