Your turn: DD policy shift would mean higher cost, poorer service

To the public, and especially to those who happen to know an individual with developmental disabilities, it looks like these individuals have a good life. They live and work in the community just like anyone else. They attend church like anyone else. They frequent restaurants, shops and community events just like anyone else. But what the public doesn’t see is the complex network of support that goes on behind the scenes, making that person’s life meaningful and successful.

This network of support in Kansas has been built over the last 40 years, started first by parents of children with developmental disabilities, whose only choice at the time was to keep their children at home or send them to an institution. Here in Lawrence, it was the Branson and Wiley families. But they wanted something more. Thus, with the help of funding from the county, the Community Mental Retardation Centers (CMRCs) were formed. Options were developed for day services, including paid work and then residential services so they could leave their parents’ home when they were ready to live on their own or with others in a group setting.

With passage of the DD Reform Act in 1995, the State designated the CMRCs as Community Developmental Disability Organizations (CDDOs), and individuals began moving out of institutions back to their communities. The CDDOs contract with the state to serve as the single point of entry for all services related to developmental disability. They also provide eligibility determination and set funding levels according to state guidelines. And in partnership with the state, CDDOs provide quality oversight of all community-based services. CDDOS help guide individuals in finding the types of services they need to become more independent and to live a more satisfying life, all for an administrative cost of 2.4 percent.

But now, Senate Bill 194 is threatening to dismantle the DD Reform Act by taking away functions of the CDDO, a system which has worked successfully for years. The ultimate goal of the bill is to position managed care organizations (MCOs) to take over those functions. Three for-profit insurance companies have contracted as MCOs with the state in its KanCare initiative. The state wants to hand over to the MCOs not only the CDDO functions, but the administration of all DD services by including everything in KanCare. But the MCOs won’t do it for less than a 5 percent administrative fee.

Health insurance companies have no experience with providing non-medical day-to-day services. They don’t know how to help a person find a job, get a bus pass or find a new place to live. You can’t guide someone in responsible money management from a call center.

Change can be a good thing, if it is needed and if it is given careful consideration. Neither is true in the state’s big push to include DD services in KanCare. If you care about people with developmental disabilities or if you only care that your tax dollars are being used wisely, please ask your legislator to keep DD services out of KanCare!”