The Legislative Session has passed the halfway mark and our advocacy efforts are ramping up. There are so many big concerns for the disability community this time around and it is imperative that we get input to the Administration, the Legislators, and to our communities from Kansans with disabilities.

The Resource Center for Independent Living, is working to get as many consumer stories, pictures, and videos as possible. We are trying to find innovative ways to make a visible stand for the needs of the disability community.

Yesterday, we released a video regarding allegations from members of the Legislature that Centers for Independent Living are full of fraud. We know that isn’t the case so we wanted to create a way to simply share a powerful message, Centers for Independent Living are not Fraud. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. So, what can you do?

If you are a member of the Kansas disability community, this includes families and loved ones of persons with a disability and those who work or advocate within this community, we need to hear from you! There are a couple of different ways to share your story.

  1. Submit a digital photo of yourself holding the “I’m Not Fraud” sign – You must print off the sign and the Photo Release form we need to use your photo. Take the picture, fill out the form, and scan/email it to Summer Ludwig.
  2. Have someone video a short, 2-3 minute clip of your story and upload it to YouTube and send us the link or send us the video and the Photo Release and we can upload it to our page.
  3. Contact your local RCIL office or email Summer Ludwig and let us know that you would like our assistance in getting either your photo, video or both! We will have someone come to you.

If you decide to make a video the following are some ideas of questions to have someone ask you and you answer or topics you can just talk about. These are just suggestions, you can use them or not use them, the important thing is getting YOUR voice to the Administration and the Legislators.

Script ideas/questions for people on the Waiting List
  1. How long have you been waiting?
  2. Please describe your disability/situation.
  3. How is your life impacted by not receiving services?
  4. What types of assistance do you need?
  5. You are eligible to enter a NF, is that an option for you? Why/Why not?
  6. What would you like to say to your Legislators?
Script ideas/questions for people receiving services
  1. Please describe your disability/situation.
  2. What type of assistance do you receive in your home?
  3. What would your life be like without these services?
  4. Have you used CIL services other than HCBS? If so, how did this help you?
  5. What would you like to say to your Legislators?

For other ways to Advocate make sure you check out our Advocacy page.

 

Dear Friends & Fellow Kansans:
In two days, on Wednesday, Feb 15th, we are going to the Kansas Statehouse to deliver the message that KANSANS COUNT: We Demand Democracy.

Among the many issues of concern is Voter Suppression. Many of you, along with advocacy groups, and the ACLU have expressed concern about the adverse effects of the new Kansas voter ID law. This law has the serious potential to disenfranchise a significant number of otherwise eligible voters, with a disproportionate impact on the poor, individuals with lower education levels, immigrants, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

Voting is not a privilege, it is a right. To vote, to have YOUR VOICE, is fundamental to a democracy, and it must be protected if we are intent on maintaining our democracy.

Please review the this information provided by the ACLU which highlights the types of photo ID problems that concern them at this time.

Crystal McComas & Tamara Werth
Kansans United in Voice & Spirit

*This post is from Kansans United in Voice and Spirit

On February 1, 2012 disability advocates across the state began a concerted effort to contact the Governor’s office and SRS regarding the Waiting Lists for Home and Community Based Services. The Governor’s office and the SRS administration responded less than satisfactorily advising (after several off the wall suggestions) that the Waiting Lists for Home and Community Based Services would be funded through savings “over time” that Medicaid would realize once Managed Care was in effect.

It is important that Governor Brownback hears from the disability community and our supporters and understands that their lack of a concrete plan to address the waiting lists is not acceptable. According to SRS, as of January 1, 2012 there are 3,369 persons waiting for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Physically Disabled (PD) services. 15 persons died while waiting during the month of Dec, 2011. The last person offered PD Services had been waiting for 2 years and 9 months!

These are Kansans age 16-64 who could, at any time, receive care in a nursing home at a much higher cost to the state. Meanwhile, the state’s ending balance continues to rise. Please contact Governor Brownback today and ask him what his plan is to ensure that the lives of Kansans are given the respect and dignity they deserve. Click here for a sample letter.

 

 

Today at 2:00pm the Kansas House and Senate will convene to start the 2012 Legislative Session. This promises to be one of the busiest, and maybe toughest sessions in recent years.

All eyes are on the Senate as it is an election year for them and the coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats that stood together the last 2 years to stave off very damaging legislation will certainly be under fire.The House is most decidedly in Governor Brownback’s pocket and have the will and power to push through his ultra-conservative agenda.

The items that will be of particular note to the disability community are big ones this year:

  • Medicad Reform ushering in Managed Care
  • The Executive Reorganization Order that will combine aging and disability services and all of Medicaid under the new Department of Aging and Disability Services
  • An expected push to significantly lower or even end the income tax
  • Employment initiatives aimed towards Kansans with disabilities that have yet to be revealed
  • Funding Centers for Independent Living and Consumer Run Organizations as well as the usual budgetary items

We are very busy working to introduce an advocacy plan for this session that will utilize the strengths and voices of the consumers we serve to their fullest potential. Check back for regular updates from the Statehouse and contact your local RCIL office to find out how to become involved.

“Nothing about us without us!”

 

 

With the new year comes a new Legislative session in Kansas. The 2012 Session starts on Monday January 9th at 2:00pm and promises to be a busy one.

The disability community will be closely watching as the Administration and the Legislature take on huge items including an expected Executive Order re-organizing SRS, the Medicaid overhaul into a managed care system, an anticipated move to do away with income tax, Education finance reform, and KPERS reform.

The Resource Center for Independent Living will be working to make sure our consumers and community partners stay updated on the goings on within the Statehouse. We’ll utilize this blog, our Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as our existing NetPals email service.

Something new that we plan on introducing this session are video updates from the Statehouse from our advocates on the front lines, our consumers giving testimony, and others. These will be posted to our YouTube stream as well as on our blog and other social media outlets.

2012 will be a year of big changes for the disability community in Kansas and for the State as a whole. Join us in getting our updates and information out to our friends, families, Legislators, and community partners.

Let us know if you would like to share your story with your Legislators or the media. We are looking for individuals who utilize services or who are on waiting lists for services, people who are working or who are struggling to find employment. Contact us today and share your voice.

 

I talk to people a lot about the proud history of the disability community in Kansas. The progress that was made in the state by dedicated advocates placed Kansas in the forefront on disability rights. We have constructed a system that, while not perfect, works to empower Kansans with disabilities, helps them acquire gainful employment, and honors their choices and right to make them.

It is a system that stresses the Independent Living Philosophy and utilizes grass roots organizations like Consumer Run Organizations (CROs) and Centers for Independent Living (CILs) so that folks with disabilities are working with other folks with disabilities. This system has ensured that we have had a place at the table when decisions have been made regarding services, programs, and funding for the disability community. Kansas is known across America as a place with an active and vocal disability rights base.

Over the last year, this voice has been stymied. Decisions and entire program changes have been made in secrecy, the grand unveiling of which are shrouded in confusion, urgency, and completely overlook the very real needs of the people they claim to protect. One of the biggest changes thus far is the plan for bringing Managed Care to Medicaid services. The Governor and Lt. Governor are proud to present this to Kansas as a way to cut costs and improve the care that Kansans receive.

To do this, 3 out-of-state corporations, who have a responsibility to their shareholders to turn a profit, will now be paid millions and millions of dollars to manage your care. Instead of peer based service delivery that we now have in Home and Community Based Services, for instance, a clinical team will determine what care you need for everything from medications to your long term care services. The State claims that this will result in an $853 million savings.

It seems difficult to believe that much money can be cut from the existing Medicaid budget, these corporations will make a profit and potentially earn up to $250 million in bonuses and services will get better. Not only are cuts in service going to be necessary in order to meet the fiscal realities of this plan, but we stand to lose the very thing that makes Kansas a leader in disability issues, the belief that the person with the disability is a competent decision maker in their own care; that people with disabilities don’t need to be “managed” they need to be empowered to make their own decisions and supported while doing so. The benefits of a system that stresses these core beliefs include a disability community strongly connected with the community at large, working, playing, loving, raising families, and contributing to society.

Please contact your State legislators and let them know that any reform of Medicaid must contain a way for consumers of the services to have a voice in the implementation. Centers for Independent Living, Consumer Run Organizations, and other consumer advocacy groups must be funded if people with disabilities are to have a fair representation in decisions made regarding their lives.

 

I am a Case Manager, yet I do not manage cases, I work with people. My job is to visit people in their homes who have physical disabilities and complete an assessment to determine if they are eligible for a Medicaid program that provides long term care services to them in their own homes.

People used to be relieved when I would complete my assessment and tell them, “Yes, we can help you.” The Home and Community Based Services that they had qualified for would allow them to have assistance as they needed it allowing them to remain independent in their homes and communities and keep the dreaded nursing facility entrance at bay.

Things have certainly changed. Now when I complete an assessment I am forced to say, “Yes we can help you, but there’s a 2 and ½ year waiting list (at least). I look into the eyes of the loved one that is no longer able to stay with them and provide care and see the fear, frustration, and tiredness. I hear the cries of the woman who is terrified that without services she will be committed to an institution, when she is perfectly capable of staying in her own home with some supports.

There is no good explanation for this, Home and Community Based Services are much less expensive than Nursing Facility care, a fact that we as advocates have been stressing for years and years. This year, the savings opportunity was even greater, if Kansas had opted in to the Community First Choice Option that was effective in October, we would have received greater Federal assistance to pay for the services as well as ensure that individuals would not have to wait.

The long term effect of providing Home and Community Based Services to all who qualify instead of institutional care is not only a greater integration of individuals with disabilities into their communities, but also a huge financial savings to the state.

It is time for us to start asking our Legislators and our Governor, why; in a time of budget surplus, we are not talking about restoring the funds to HCBS to eliminate the waiting list and give Kansans the dignity and care that they deserve.

Yesterday Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer unveiled sweeping changes to the Kansas Medicaid program. These changes were a part of the Governor’s “Roadmap” and took on one of the three big areas he wanted to tackle along with KPERS and Education.

Beginning in January of 2013 all Medicaid recipients will be under Managed Care plans. The administration foresees “at least 3” Managed Care organizations running the state plan they have named, KanCare.

The goals for the new program are to reduce cost, by as much as $853 million (all funds) over the next five years, and to improve care quality and outcomes for beneficiaries. KanCare places a great emphasis on treating a person as a whole by using care coordination and person centered planning by the managed care organization.

What does this mean for Kansans with disabilities? It means that for-profit corporations will now be managing your care. States have been moving more and more towards a managed care model for Medicaid and managed care has been shown to reduce costs.

The way that managed care programs accomplish this is by cutting down on very expensive services such as hospital admissions by utilizing preventative care and wellness programs or limiting what services are covered or considered “necessary”.

Kansas’ foray into Medicaid managed care will start with 3 year contracts with the managed care organizations which could be a cause for concern. There is no “trial” run it will either work, or it won’t. Of course, because the corporations running the program are accountable to their shareholders to make a profit, the money spent on Medicaid in Kansas will have to include a profit margin for the managed care organizations.

I am including links to the KanCare FAQ, the KanCare Executive Statement, and the Medicaid Reform Plan Press Release.

KanCare Executive Summary

Medicaid Reform Plan Press Release

The RFPs were issued yesterday to companies interested in managing Kansas Medicaid and are due back to SRS in January 2012.

Along with Medicaid Reform is some pretty major agency shuffling. Kansas Dept. of Aging will become Kansas Department for Aging and Human Services and fold in services for the mentally ill, all 5 state hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled as well as the Home and Community Based Services waivers for Kansans with disabilities. The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment (KDHE) will oversee the Medicaid contracts and finances.

SRS will be renamed Department for Children and Family Services and focus solely on programs for children and families. They will keep Adult Protective Services and will fold in Family Preservation programs that are currently with KDHE and some prevention programs from the Juvenile Justice Authority.

As my previous blog post stated, changes are coming to the disability community in Kansas and it is up to us to make certain that we are not just passively accepting what is handed to us. We need to make our voices and our needs heard. We must demand that any changes made preserve our independence, our ability to choose, and include our input.

The Resource Center for Independent Living will continue to update you as we can about the upcoming Medicaid reform and the soon-to-begin Legislative Session.

The Big Tent Coalition and Kansans for Quality Communities are teaming up to bring Town Hall meetings to towns across Kansas. The purpose is to “discuss the impact of continuing budget cuts on vital state services and the ramifications of eliminating the Kansas income tax.”

The Resource Center for Independent Living is working to ensure that our consumers and community partners know about and are able to attend these important events. At each event, Legislators and media outlets have been invited, this is a perfect time to visually represent the disability community’s commitment to advocating for needed services, programs, and equality.

The schedule for the Town Hall Meetings is as follows:

  • Salina – November 8th at 5:30pm South High School Commons Area, 730 E. Magnolia, Salina
  • Lawrence – November 9th at 5:00pm Carnegie Building, 200 W. 9th Street, Heritage Room, Lawrence
  • Pittsburg – November 10th at 4:30pm Pittsburg Auditorium, Rooms B-6 and B-7 (basement), 503 N. Pine, Pittsburg
  • Wichita – November 29th at 3:30pm Aley Park Clubhouse, 1803 South Seneca, Wichita

The following link is to the informational flyer, please feel free to print and distribute in your communities.
Town Hall Meetings Invitation

As we edge closer to winter, the leaves are changing and falling, the air is cooler, and the days are shorter. These are expected changes we prepare for each year. This year, Kansans with disabilities are experiencing many other changes.

There is a new administration in Kansas state government and in SRS, over the last several months words like “reform” and “managed care” have been making frequent appearances. There are also the not unexpected Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver changes that began yesterday after a somewhat confusing implementation process.

What does this all mean for you? In all honesty, we aren’t sure yet. There are certainly parts of the equation that we understand, such as Financial Management Services (FMS) implementation, but there are many more parts that have yet to be fully revealed.

The Resource Center for Independent Living has been a part of the dialogue from the beginning, offering our ideas, concerns, and opinions at every opportunity to do so. We have worked closely with other Centers for Independent Living and agencies for the disability community to form a strong, cohesive voice seeking to protect and ensure the rights of people with disabilities do not get overlooked in the demand to save costs and trim budgets.

Kansas has a long history of progressiveness in the disability arena, ensuring personal choice and the Independent Living Philosophy have been a part of our Medicaid programs and that Centers for Independent Living have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions regarding the lives of people in the disability community.

We will keep working to ensure that Kansas remains a national leader in disability rights and we ask that Kansans with disabilities join with us. This blog has information within it of various advocacy efforts you can be involved in, such as writing letters to the editor, contacting Legislators, and others. If you are interested in receiving advocacy updates and calls to action from us please email me and I will add you to our contact list.

Changes are coming and it’s up to the disability community to ensure that our rights and our best interests are protected. For our part, RCIL will work to keep you updated on changes as we receive information, answer any questions that you may have, and continue to be a voice for Kansans with disabilities.