Feds looking at Kansas' shameful denial of services to disabled
The Kansas City Star
A so-far under-the-radar story that could have a huge impact on Kansas finances and Gov. Sam Brownback’s ambitious agenda is the fact that federal officials are taking a hard look at the long waiting lists for the physically and developmentally disabled.
Civil rights investigators for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have been in the state for months, following up on hundreds of complaints that the state’s refusal to allocate adequate funding for the disabled is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The state may also be on the wrong side of Olmstead v. L.C., a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says disabled citizens must be provided with resources to live in the least restrictive setting. Disabled citizens are contending that Kansas’ refusal to provide home-based services has forced some people into nursing homes or group settings.
HHS officials met with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and attempted to negotiate a plan to put more money into services for the disabled. But late last week, officials notified advocates for the disabled that they’d been unable to come to terms with Brownback, and were turning the investigation over to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, confirmed that development for the Kansas Health Institute News Service.
More than 3,500 physically disabled Kansans and almost 4,000 developmentally disabled Kansans are waiting for services. (Find more about this situation here.)
President Barack Obama’s administration has been serious about enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision. It has joined or filed more than 25 lawsuits involving 17 states.
If legal action plays out against Kansas, the state could be ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to whittle down the waiting lists. And you know what – it would serve officials right. The way Kansas treats its disabled citizens is a long-running disgrace.
Here’s an odd twist: It was under the administration of Democrat Kathleen Sebelius that the waiting lists began to grow, due to lack of adequate funding. Sebelius, of course, is now secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that has been trying to correct the problem.