Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2012

State agency refuses to answer questions from legislators about growing waiting lists

The Kansas Statehouse is seen in downtown Topeka, Kan. Tuesday, June 23, 2009.

The Kansas Statehouse is seen in downtown Topeka, Kan. Tuesday, June 23, 2009.

September 12, 2012


— Gov. Sam Brownback's administration on Wednesday refused to answer questions from legislators about a growing waiting list of poor Kansans with severe disabilities who are seeking assistance.

"I'm flabbergasted," said state Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, after Gary Haulmark, who is commissioner of community services and programs for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, refused to answer questions during a public legislative committee meeting.

"This is unprecedented," said state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka. "What's the secrecy about?," she asked.

Haulmark said he was advised by his agency's general counsel not to answer questions on the Home and Community Based Services program due to potential litigation.

The HCBS program is designed to provide assistance to people with physical and developmental disabilities in their homes or communities as an alternative to more expensive and confining nursing home care.

More than 7,500 Kansans are on the waiting list for services or are under-served, up from 2,075 in 2008, according to legislative staff figures.

The federal government has been investigating complaints that the state is violating the civil rights of people who are waiting for help, some of whom have been waiting for years.

Advocates for people with physical disabilities 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.

Ami Hyten, assistant executive director for the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, said that under Olmstead, states can have waiting lists, but must provide people with services within a reasonable amount of time.

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 made enforcement of Olmstead a top priority.”

Members of the Legislative Budget Committee had scheduled an overview of the HCBS program on Wednesday. After receiving an update from legislative staff on the size of the waiting lists, Haulmark told legislators he had been advised by the general counsel of his agency not to answer any questions.

"That makes absolutely no sense," said Vratil.

Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, which helps persons with disabilities, said the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has even stopped posting on its website the number of people who are on waiting lists.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, asked Haulmark when legislators could expect to get answers to their questions since the Legislature is responsible for funding the program. Haulmark said he didn't know, so McGinn asked that Haulmark bring his general counsel to the committee's meeting on Thursday.

Kathy Lobb of Lawrence, who is with the Self Advocates Coalition of Kansas, said she hoped that projected savings cited by the Brownback administration in its proposed changes to the state Medicaid system, could be used to "get the services" to those on the waiting lists.


avarom 5 years, 8 months ago

These crooks should use some of money they are spending on the Kansas State House decorations and remodeling...and remodel their laws to help protect the poor, sick and elderly. I'm sure the State House could due without a new over priced Chandelier. What a frickin joke....spending money on furniture instead of people. Just show Kansans The Real truth about how the State really cares about their People....! Very Pitiful 8-(

mdlund0 5 years, 8 months ago

+1. A comment that could not possibly be more on point.

mdlund0 5 years, 8 months ago

Headline should read: "Brownback does not care about welfare of citizens, suggests they eat cake."

question4u 5 years, 8 months ago

The only thing that's surprising is that Brownback's regime should even bother to hide the facts. It's perfectly clear that facts mean little to his supporters. Besides, they are highly unlikely to be upset by about injustice toward the poor and sick. After all, these are people who think it's fair that many of the wealthiest Kansans will pay no state income tax while rates will rise for the poor. The only thing that should leave Vratril "flabbergasted" is that so many Kansans claim to be Christians. Now that's astonishing.

costello 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm confused. Didn't the legislature create the agency, give it whatever legal authority it has, and fund it? How can it refuse to answer questions from the legislature?

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 8 months ago

Brownback is systematically dismantling Kansas government. Brownback is like the honey badger...he don't give a s...!

Bob Forer 5 years, 8 months ago

Apparently, the Brownback administration in its infinite arrogance believes it can suspend constitutional democracy at a whim.

Folks, we are witnessing the beginning stages of American Fascism, brought to you by our very own Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback.

Restore Democracy!!!!!! Vote out Brownback come election time.

FlintHawk 5 years, 8 months ago

My son is one of those on the don't-bother-waiting list of 7,500. When he qualified for the MR/DD program in 2009, we were told it would likely be a 5-year wait — which would have worked out okay, not ideal, but okay. I suppose that the number wait-listed in 2009 was still around 2,000. I'm not the greatest at math, but I think that the increase from 2009-2012 is 261+% — an appalling increase. You may need to correct my math here, but it looks like the increase in those waiting for services would lengthen my son's 5-year wait to 13+ years — too late to help.

Can we assume that the increase is due to program, services and personnel cuts? It seems unlikely that the number of people in Kansas with physical and mental disabilities would have increased so dramatically in 3-4 years.

Sure picked the wrong climate to return to my home state. You think?

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

"Sure picked the wrong climate to return to my home state. You think?"


Can only hope that the feds will kick some ass. I rarely wish bad things on people, but I hope Brownback ends up serving a long sentence . . .

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

You're telling me what I mean? Really? You?

chootspa 5 years, 8 months ago

Oh but heaven forbid we mandate any insurance companies to cover autism services. It's only ok to legislate for the protection of zygotes.

True story - they voted against a bill that would mandate autism coverage and voted for a bill that forbid standard workplace insurance from covering abortions for rape or incest.

deec 5 years, 8 months ago

Maybe the legislators can file FOIAs on the executive branch.

Munsoned 5 years, 8 months ago

"Pro-Life"???????? I must have missed the fine print with the exclusions and the list of those (who already exist outside the womb) who do not quailfy. Effing disgusting.

nell 5 years, 8 months ago

It's telling that the usual right-wing voices haven't piped up...

Jean Robart 5 years, 8 months ago

Nell--I am conservative, not right wing in the way people are meaning the term. i voted for Brownback. And i HATE what he is doing to the people of the state of Kansas and its most needy people. He does not deserve to be governor. i wish i had a copy of the oath he took when he was sworn in, as I am sure he has broken it several times. This is one reason why, though I cannot afford it, I am moving away from Kansas (other reasons include moving closer to family). The man who is governor is NOT the man for whom i voted. I remember the saying "Absolute power corrupts absolutely", and believe it applies here. Not all of us who voted for him are happy with the decisions he has made--in fact, I don't know of anybody in my "circle" who voted for him who don't regret that vote.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

"The man who is governor is NOT the man for whom i voted. "

Actually, he is doing precisely what he indicated he would do.

I just hope that more people who voted for him have the same buyer's remorse that you do.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

Not true.

He promised to protect education and social services, and is cutting funding and privatizing them instead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

But he was talking out of both sides of his mouth when he said it. He was bound to become a liar one way or the other. And the direction he chose was entirely predictable.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree.

But he's not doing precisely what he indicated he'd so, as you claimed above.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

You may be right-- and I probably had a tendency to tune Brownback out when he was obviously lying during the campaign.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

Please tell that to tbaker, if you get the chance.

And, to other folks who continue to defend Brownback.

kevingray 5 years, 8 months ago

No, Brownback was the same before he was elected governor. As a Kansas teacher, I followed his early years as a legislator. Even then, he was out to get public education. He was then as he is now. All anyone had to do was read What's the Matter With Kansas by Thomas Frank, a former conservative Republican, who saw the light and saw what the likes of Brownback would mean to both the State of Kansas and to the US. The book details Brownback's early years. Too many people failed to do their homework. Even my own late mother, a lifelong Republican started voting for Democrats thanks to Jim Ryun, once a hero of hers. While she watched Brownback in Washington from her Topeka home, she wondered what had happened to her Republican Party.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

Her Republican party is in the same place as mine. Passed away, in a nursing home or if they are lucky enough to be up and about are on a Mexican beach or living in central America. Probably Belize.

Mike1949 5 years, 8 months ago

I think the consumer protection agency (federal) should be investigating all of Brownbacks actions, contacts, deals, . . . everything for fraud. The Kansas consumer has had the Kansas Government commit fraud on every single Kansan who earns less than $250,000 a year!

Bladerunner 5 years, 8 months ago

This is exactly why we don't need government in charge of our health care. They are doing such an "awesome" job with a minority of the population. Imagine when they are in charge of the majoritys health care. Can't wait to see that.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Well, yea, if you put someone in charge of government healthcare whose primary goal is to dismantle it, what else should we expect?

But you have won the Grover Norquist Post of the Day prize. (Let's drown government in the bathtub, and then crow about how ineffective it is.)

mycatsrightorwrong 5 years, 8 months ago

Normal moronic Tea Party logic... defund government so they don't have the staff to carry out their public service, then claim government can't respond to public needs.

globehead 5 years, 8 months ago

Yes! That is exactly what has been going on for a number of years. The step that will follow is to privatize the failed agencies which will hire employees for less pay, pay their directors more and many of whom will be the former politicians who initiated the failure to begin with or their campaign backers &/or lobbyists.

chootspa 5 years, 8 months ago

Yes, and lousy gas station donuts are proof that the government needs to take over the pastry industry. Jumping to irrational conclusions is fun! Weeeee!

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 8 months ago

So, while Brownback plays footsie and slap and tickle with the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party, the state goes to hell. We have the prison system under Federal investigation with the threat of a DoJ lawsuit, Olmstead complaints right and left with the further threat of DoJ lawsuit and 40 people have been laid off from KDoT. There are god knows how many lawsuits against the state already wending their way through the Federal courts, challenging some of the most Neanderthal legislation to ever come out of the state house, costing the state god knows how much in lawyer and court fees, while Brownback turns down millions of dollars from the Feds because it comes with strings attached and he couldn't do it "his way". In the meantime, you have a SoS tilting at windmills and spending even MORE money to use a jackhammer to slap a gnat.
Wow. Whoda thunk it?
People laughed at me for moving to TN and told me I was just going from one red state to another. Believe me, it ain't NEAR as bad here.

cowboy 5 years, 8 months ago

We need to get Detective Dave Trabert on the hunt on this one , DDT for short.

The repubs pulled this same stuff in Arizona resulting in a Federal lawsuit and dame to alot of folks needing care and treatment.

chootspa 5 years, 8 months ago

He'll just tell you that he supports coupons for private schools for special needs kids, and that magically solves everything. They don't need home and community based services if their parents don't earn enough to pay for it out of pocket. Rich people should have that money instead.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 8 months ago

I prefer Diamond Dave. That would match the tie tack the BROTHERS gave him.

KS 5 years, 8 months ago

I have no doubt that there are people out that that need the help, but it seems more people become disabled in Kansas than grow old. Humm?

globehead 5 years, 8 months ago

Numbers please. Let's learn something here.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 8 months ago

Do meth, have dumb kids, get the taxpayer to pay. Where you address the problem is pretty simple.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

They are not true conservatives. Most of these mouth pieces just get their jollies from trying work people up and there are a few that are just attention whores.

KS 5 years, 8 months ago

Been looking in the mirror again, huh?

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 8 months ago

Spoken like a true compassionate conservative. Keep talking ~ every time you do, you convince many to oppose you and your ill-informed cohorts. Keep sharing your true feelings and you'll assure Obama's reelection ~ who would want to be associated with someone with your viewpoint? Getting the taxpayer to pay for expensive magical dancing horses, when that money would support several families in need, and sheltering untold millions offseas, now that's an issue with this taxpayer.

Bob Forer 5 years, 8 months ago

Can't: Your comment is thoroughly and absolutely disgusting. Do you have any friends? Do your children truly love you?

Karma is a bitch. In time, perhaps you might be struck by a bus and paralyzed so you will know first hand what it is like to be disabled. If such an unfortunate event did occur, I am sure you would be quickly disabused of your current petulance.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

Of course KS. Kansas has less than 7500 new geriatrics added to the population over the last few years. Could you be anymore ignorant?

KS 5 years, 8 months ago

headdoctor - I think that makes my case.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

Guess you are a little simple about sarcasm as well.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

Brownback thinks he's in line for POTUS. The guy belongs in an asylum.

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

Can a state agency legally refuse to answer questions from the state legislature?

If not, what can be done about this unlawful refusal?

I don't have the time to try to research this right now---often questions like this are hard to find answers to---so if anybody knows, I would appreciate answers. Then, if there is legal redress, I want to get it started. We bitch, moan and complain, and I am as guilty as the next person, but this might be the opportunity to start to put a stop to this dismantling of our state.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

For most people it is unlawful but at the worst is just a Class A misdemeanor. Being this is a State Agency refusing allegedly under councils advice I doubt they will get in any hot water. What is a concern is the way their refusal was couched. If they are that concerned over litigation they are admitting something is wrong. They just haven't found which person is to be the sacrificial lamb yet.

As much as I want to I don't believe this started with Brownback but it has certainly been made much worse since he has been in office. What I find amusing is the Legislators want answers and it wouldn't surprise me to find out the primary cause of this issue was the Legislators own doing with the agency just working with what they had to work with.

globehead 5 years, 8 months ago

Every agency must go before the legislature at some point for funding. But, I do think this is a dog and pony show by those in the legislature. They know EXACTLY why long delays exist. They CAUSED it. Furthermore, I used to work in management in a state agency. We were directed by our superiors to NEVER blame the legislature for anything. A great many public complaints were the result of legislative actions or lack thereof. It was sometimes remarkably funny when a legislator called with a complaint and we would be able to cite their actions back to them. It was particularly fun when they would have their constituent on a speaker phone trying to impress them only to get an honest answer, one they didn't expect. Some of these folks were none too bright at all.

geekin_topekan 5 years, 8 months ago

McJack, I said that from the very beginning--mental illness can come in many forms, some are extremely high functioning.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 8 months ago

What is the process for Recalling The Governor in the state of Kansas? I know Scott Walker was recalled(and survived) in Wisconsin. How do you start a Recall Process here in Kansas would be my question. If it takes signatures on a petition, where do I sign?

meggers 5 years, 8 months ago

Even if Brownback were to be recalled, we'd be stuck with Colyer- an even bigger ideologue than Brownback. In fact, from what I understand, the entire Medicaid privatization scheme is Colyer's brain child.

We need to find a strong candidate to run against Brownback in 2014. Hopefully, the damage will still be reparable by then.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 8 months ago

As the cons' swagger turns to goosestep and their true colors are revealed ~ by comments on boards like this ~watch your numbers dwindle. You'll be quite surprised this fall and down the road.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 8 months ago

Gee, I didn't know Kathy was a Republican.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

I know it is tough for you as a little man to keep up but there have been 13 Governors that were not Republican. 11 of those were Democrat.

ProfessorSeamus 5 years, 8 months ago

Recent Kansas governors include: Carlin (D), Hayden (probably not nearly conservative enough for the current litmus test), Finney (D), Graves (Moderate republican) and Sebelius (D). So, at least four of those five, and possible all five, are not "Brownback" conservative. So, other than being completely wrong, you make a great point.

UfoPilot 5 years, 8 months ago

Does the State legislature have a provision for "contempt"? If not , they should, then you could put them in jail until they complied.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree. Some at The Capitol Building in Topeka would need to grow a pair and acquire a Spine for them to bring Contempt charges. We all know why it won't happen.

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

Thank you, UfoPilot. It looks like refusing to answer questions from the Legislative Budget Committee is a misdemeanor, not a criminal act. I hope Ms McGinn slaps them with contempt if they don't give some answers at the meeting today.

Of course, they'll use the excuse that they need more time to get the information.

It's telling that Ms McGinn was one of the Republicans targeted by Brownback, Inc.

ksjayhawk74 5 years, 8 months ago

It's hard to believe there is a huge health care problem from the same administration that refused $31.5 Million in Federal funding, so that Kansans wouldn't be troubled by easy access to low cost health insurance.

RDE87 5 years, 8 months ago

Doesn't Brownback realize by not providing funding to these people in need now their condition could worsen and they could end up in a nursing home/hospital, etc. This would end up costing the government even more money in the long run. You can’t just pretend like this doesn’t exist.

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

If they can't get funding now, the lines not going to be any shorter when they need more substantial care. There will be no funding for that either, if Brownback has his way.

"Doesn't Brownback realize . . ." Brownback is doing the will of the people who bought him. He cares about nothing else.

headdoctor 5 years, 8 months ago

As I mentioned in an above post. We may find out it is the Legislators that caused a lot of this problem and it looks like I may have been at least partially correct. This issue was addressed and fought over in the last carry over session which ended in May. They agreed to setting aside more money but it would only shortened one list by a couple hundred people and another list by about three hundred. A far cry from the 7500 on the list. What isn't clear is a lot of this expense is eventually pickup at the Federal level once they are switched over. So why is the State dragging their feet at getting these people on to the Federal programs. Making them wait and have to try to survive on the State's pittance is silly. It is almost as if the State is causing their own problem with money and otherwise. I don't get it unless they are just purposely being mean about getting them help.

Anne Tangeman 5 years, 8 months ago

NOW can we do a recall? What is it going to take. His administration said something about trying to contact people on the list but not getting responses and that some phones had been disconnected...too little too late maybe eh? What does Brownback have to do to get recalled? Seriously. The emperor of Kansas. Ugh.

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

No, unfortunately we can't. State law makes it almost impossible---and if we did manage, the governor appoints the replacement from the same party.

msezdsit 5 years, 8 months ago

Brownback and his minions knew this was coming all along in their slash and burn Kansans to to the stake ideology. This brings the issue to the forefront and these" me first" and "me only" brownbackistans don't want to talk about it because their policy is "out of sight out of mind" when it comes to the people they have devastated.

It does put it into perspective when they aren't even willing to help those who can't help themselves and then brownbackistans response is "who, you talken to me?"

The fake christians are having a hard time faking their fake christian decision that throws people who need help out in the street and, of course, they don't want to talk about it.

msezdsit 5 years, 8 months ago

"Haulmark said he was advised by his agency's general counsel not to answer questions...."

Oh sure, Haulmark would like to talk about the devastation he and his ilk have caused these people, but, shucks, my attorney told me not to. That's all the help these people get

Currahee 5 years, 8 months ago

I love the Brownback hate right now, as much BS as this is though. A state agency is supposed to serve the people, not hide from questions. Brownback is actually more in favor of community support because it's quite a lot cheaper than having care at places like KNI, which he tried to chop down a few years ago but fell silent. At the time he argued that KNI funds could be provided to the community, in which case would help solve a bit of the funding issue.

The problem of why people are on waiting lists boils all down to funding most likely. Only so many people can receive services. So basically until someone who is in the community dies, moves, or doesn't need services, the next person gets it.

Please check your facts people you open your mouth. Thanks.

globehead 5 years, 8 months ago

Take a little visit to KNI sometime and see if they'll let you walk through the part of the facility where the developmentally disabled are cared for. If you can make it through without breaking down you may be able to ask why it doesn't receive priority funding and why anyone would ever have to wait.

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