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Archive for Monday, November 5, 2012

State cuts assistance list by one-third

Program is meant to help Kansans with disabilities

November 5, 2012

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— Approximately one-third of the people with physical disabilities who have been waiting for assistance from the state have been removed from the list, many because they could not be reached, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration announced Monday.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan said the state now has a better handle on the waiting list and officials will move forward with spending money that was available July 1 to provide services for 100 additional people.

The issue centers on a program that provides services to help low-income Kansans with physical disabilities live in their homes or other community-based settings as an alternative to more expensive and confining nursing home care.

Brownback’s administration has been under fire for not providing help to thousands of Kansans with physical disabilities. The federal government has been investigating complaints that the state is violating the civil rights of people who are waiting for assistance, some of whom have been waiting for years.

In July, 3,462 people with physical disabilities were on the waiting list.

But Sullivan had said that number was inflated and hired a call center to try to contact people on the waiting list. The call center reached only 11 percent of those people. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services then had the Centers for Independent Living and other case management entities try to reach clients and certify their information.

This process resulted in 1,226 people being removed from the waiting list, Sullivan said.

Twenty-four percent of those could not be contacted and about 10 percent were determined ineligible for services, the agency said. Sullivan provided no specific numbers, but did say a small percentage had died while on the waiting list.

Colyer and Sullivan said that people who are on the waiting list and fall into a crisis or life-threatening situation can access the care that they need.

Colyer said the state’s proposal to move to KanCare, which places the Medicaid program in the hands of private managed care companies, will provide better continuity of services for those with disabilities.

Advocates for people with physical disabilities in Kansas have been filing Olmstead complaints, based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says states must provide services to people with disabilities to enable them to be more integrated in the community.

Earlier this year, negotiations between the Brownback administration and officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services broke down. HHS then forwarded the waiting list complaints to the U.S. Justice Department, which has said enforcement of the Olmstead ruling is a top priority of the agency.

Stacey Hunter Schwartz, executive director of Independence Inc., which provides assistance to people with disabilities in Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties, said the organization contacted 23 people on the waiting list and determined that two should be removed.

She said she agreed that the waiting list information needed to be kept up-to-date, but said she thought the state went through this exercise with an eye on the Olmstead complaints. “They wanted to be able to say there isn’t a big wait list and it isn’t a valid wait list,” she said. She also said sometimes it is difficult to maintain telephone contact with clients because their phone situation frequently changes.

State officials said they have not talked with federal officials about the changes being made to the waiting list.

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