SRS Freezes Home Service for Disabled

TOPEKA, Kan. - As the State of Kansas continues to face revenue shortfalls and economic uncertainty, the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has taken steps to conserve resources and avoid all non-essential expenditures, including holding positions vacant and refraining from implementing planned new programs.

At this point additional spending cuts are necessary to help maintain the balanced budget required by the Kansas Constitution. SRS is currently developing a sustainable plan for additional revisions to the agency's budget, including reductions or restrictions to existing services and programs.

SRS is imposing an immediate freeze in access and beginning a waiting list for the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver program for individuals with physical disabilities. During the current fiscal year, the rate of growth in the waiver has increased significantly, far outpacing the appropriated funding levels. This action is not taken to cut the budget, but to avoid further overspending.

Therefore, effective December 1, 2008, no new participants will be added to physical disability waiver services. This change will be in effect at least until July 1, 2009. This action will allow SRS to continue providing services to the approximately 7,000 Kansans currently receiving these waiver services.

Department of SRS Secretary, Don Jordan, said the decision to freeze the program was a difficult one, but necessary none-the-less. "A lot of people have already been relying on family and friends for support and they're going to have to keep doing that," Jordan said. "Unfortunately, there maybe some people that have to go into a nursing home. We hope that gets minimized but this is a serious situation and it's going to have consequences."

For people like Tessa Goupil, a Waiver program recipient and muscular dystrophy patient, the Medicaid Waiver program has given her a shot at a normal life, full of things like doing homework with her 11-year-old son, Sean.

"When I think about people coming into a situation like mine because of an injury or a worsening condition, that they might not be able to stay with their family or their children or spouse, it just makes everything that's going on ten times worse," Goupil said. "You'll never recover from it."

The HCBS waiver for individuals with physical disabilities serves individuals, age 16 to 65 years of age, who meet the criteria for nursing facility placement due to their physical disability, who are determined disabled by social security standards, and who are Medicaid eligible.

Goupil says funding nursing homes is more expensive than it would be to take that money and allow more people in the Waiver program. "These services are so important and they do cost less than what it costs to be in a nursing home," she said.

At this time waiting lists are not being implemented or planned for HCBS services for the frail elderly, individuals with traumatic brain injuries, and medically fragile children who require technological assistance to manage intensive medical needs.

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