Kansas’ waiting list for services for disabled may shrink, official says

09/14/2012 7:12 AM

09/14/2012 7:13 AM

The list of physically disabled people who are awaiting state services may shrink as the result of a state paid telephone survey that showed many people waiting for service couldn’t be reached or said they’ve moved or no longer need help.

A telephone survey by AnswerNet’s call center in Hays in mid-June reached only 377 of the 3,462 waiting for in-home or community-based services, Secretary of Aging and Disability Services Shawn Sullivan told the Legislative Budget Committee on Thursday. The survey cost the state about $5,000.

Of those 377 people reached by phone, 63 people said they have moved out of state or no longer need services, Sullivan said.

Community service providers will be tasked with finding people the phone survey couldn’t reach to confirm their needs or update their contact information. It’s unclear what will happen with those the community centers can’t reach.

Sullivan’s comments come a day after several lawmakers fumed over a different state official’s refusal to answer questions about the waiting lists because of what he said was pending litigation.

Gary Haulmark, commissioner of community services and programs for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told the Legislative Budget Committee on Wednesday that his department’s legal counsel advised him not to respond to questions.

But Sullivan said Thursday that he knows of no pending litigation or formal investigations.

He said he expects about 100 people to come off the waiting lists in coming weeks because of the $1.8 million lawmakers approved earlier this year to help slow or stop the growth of the waiting lists.

The waiting lists have been a hot topic in Topeka for years, but the issue moved to the forefront earlier this year when the Department of Justice began investigating the lists as a possible violation of civil rights of those waiting for services.

Advocates have filed Olmstead complaints, based on a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states must provide services to people with disabilities.

Earlier this year, negotiations broke down between the Brownback administration and officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS forwarded the waiting list complaints to the U.S. Justice Department.

In a letter to the HHS last April, Brownback blamed the waiting lists on the economic downturn and on the policies of former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

He said the state has broadened the criteria for crisis-level services to ensure Kansans in need get help.

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