Editor’s note: Gov. Sam Brownback’s reorganization of state government goes into effect today. The secretaries of two new agencies share their thoughts.
Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families
Today marks one of the largest reorganizations of state government in Kansas history. The Department for Children and Families replaced the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services as the state agency responsible for protecting children and promoting healthy families.
It’s an exciting time for us, and I’m so proud to be a part of this landmark change. We have a fresh focus on strengthening families, safely reducing the number of children in our care, promoting employment, and building public and private partnerships across the state.
We have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Kansans. The reconfiguration allows us to reinforce the focus we have on services for children and families. Our new name illustrates where our priorities lie – with the children and families of Kansas.
Years ago when I was working as a social worker, I saw firsthand the importance of healthy families. The people I worked with most often didn’t have the benefit of a stable home environment while they were growing up. Frequently, the problem persisted through generations.
That’s why the Department for Children and Families has a strong emphasis on prevention. We want to assist families and share resources with them, resources that could help prevent abuse, neglect or a variety of other situations that are damaging to both children and adults.
We recently hired five new social workers around the state whose only job is to work with families who do not qualify for intervention, but who nevertheless want help dealing with the risk factors present in their situation that could cause problems down the road.
Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services
Today the Kansas Department on Aging, the Disability and Behavioral Health Services Division at Social and Rehabilitation Services, and parts of the Health Occupations Credentialing Division at the Department of Health and Environment become the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. In addition to continuing to provide services to the older adults of our state, KDADS will administer mental health, addiction and prevention programs; state hospitals and institutions; home- and community-based services waiver programs; and some health occupations credentialing.
There are differences between the older adults and the individuals with disabilities whom we will serve under the new agency. However, 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.
We want to keep older adults and people with disabilities at home and independent as long as possible. Our agency will work toward providing an integrated, coordinated Medicaid system to help them achieve this goal. The Older Americans Act services that the Department on Aging has focused on since its inception will continue to help us fulfill our new agency’s mission.
A large part of our job will be to build awareness of how communities can engage and support the needs of older adults and Kansans with disabilities.
Our commitment to promoting the security, dignity and independence of our state’s older adults and individuals with disabilities has not changed.