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Disabled Kansan waiting 7 years for services gets offer from state

Disabled Kansan has waited more than seven years for state services

McRae Wooten, 21, has been waiting for state services since 2008. She is diagnosed with mental retardation, developmental delays, autism and seizure disorder. She is one of more than 4,000 Kansans waiting for services. (Video by Gabriella Dunn 3/1
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McRae Wooten, 21, has been waiting for state services since 2008. She is diagnosed with mental retardation, developmental delays, autism and seizure disorder. She is one of more than 4,000 Kansans waiting for services. (Video by Gabriella Dunn 3/1

McRae Wooten, a 21-year-old with intellectual and developmental disabilities who has been on a state waiting list for services for more than seven years, is about to get help.

Wooten received an offer for state services after The Eagle published a story about her last week.

Another 3,293 Kansans like Wooten are still waiting for help. Another 1,086 Kansans with physical disabilities also are waiting.

3,293 Kansans with developmental disabilities on the waiting list for services

1,086 Kansans with physical disabilities on the waiting list for services

A seven-year wait is typical, according to the state. The program is funded by federal and state grants.

Wooten is diagnosed with mental retardation, developmental delays, autism and seizure disorder.

Wooten’s parents – Mary Jane Wooten, 65, and Brent Wooten, 66 – applied for state help in December of 2008. They are worried about being able to care for their daughter as they age. They wake up twice each night to care for her and can’t leave her alone because she has five to 10 seizures a day. McRae Wooten also can’t interpret danger and sometimes turns the gas stove on without lighting a flame.

McRae Wooten, 21, has been waiting for state services since 2008. She is diagnosed with mental retardation, developmental delays, autism and seizure disorder. She is one of more than 4,000 Kansans waiting for services. (Video by Gabriella Dunn 3/1

Timeline to get services

Mary Jane Wooten said she received the state’s offer March 11 and plans to formally accept.

It’s not clear yet what help the family will be offered.

Mary Jane Wooten has to fill out a questionnaire about her daughter’s history of assessments and basic information about her needs. Then state contractors, who do their own assessment, will decide which services McRae Wooten will be allowed to use.

At best, families could receive services within two weeks of the original offer. But the process can easily take more than two months.

“That would be the best case scenario,” said Dee Staudt, director of the Sedgwick County Developmental Disability Organization, which will arrange for the help.

One reason for the delay, she said, is that companies providing in-home help may need to hire more staff.

In-home support workers can help with daily activities, such as personal hygiene, and can help teach the recipient how to brush their teeth, sort mail, take medication or do laundry.

But each worker’s role depends on the needs of the person being served.

When you’ve been on the list for seven and a half years, this sounds really amazing.

Mary Jane Wooten, whose daughter needs state services

“Our providers don’t necessarily have staff sitting around waiting to go to work,” she said. “They will develop the staff depending on the need.”

A backlog for Medicaid

McRae Wooten already had Medicaid at the time she received the offer for disability services.

Staudt said that’s lucky.

“It’s a completely different ball game for somebody who is currently on the waiting list, and gets an offer for funding, and is not currently on Medicaid,” she said. “For those individuals, right now it could take a very long time.”

That’s because the state switched oversight of Medicaid eligibility from the Department of Children and Families to the Department of Health and Environment.

The switch created a backlog, Staudt said.

“Even though you waited seven years to access the waiver, it’s not an immediate solution to your needs,” she said.

When asked how long it could take for someone to process through the backlog, she said, “It’s so backlogged that it would be completely a shot in the dark if we gave you an average wait.”

It’s so backlogged that it would be completely a shot in the dark if we gave you an average wait.

Dee Staudt

But she said the state has acknowledged the situation and is trying to fix it, so people can receive services sooner.

Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the state has sent, or will send, offers for services to 157 Kansans this month.

Of those who have or will receive offers, she said 47 did not have currently have Medicaid coverage.

When you’ve been on the list for seven and a half years, this sounds really amazing.

Mary Jane Wooten, whose daughter needs state services

Mary Jane Wooten was happy when told about the likely time line for receiving services for her daughter.

“When you’ve been on the list for seven and a half years, this sounds really amazing,” she said.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

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