Kansas Waiting List To Dwindle
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 5, 2003
TOPEKA, KANSAS--The wait will soon be over for hundreds of Kansans who have been on the state's waiting list for community services.
Over the next 10 months, more than 680 people with physical disabilities will receive letters from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services notifying them that they are coming off the list and will receive community-based services.
According to the Lawrence Journal-World, lawmakers set aside $2.5 million this year to reduce the waiting list in reaction to pressure from state advocacy groups. After federal funds are added, the entire package for this group will total $6.25 million. The budget also includes $6.5 million for Kansans with developmental disabilities and $7.5 million for medically fragile seniors.
"This is a good start," said Shannon Jones, executive director at the Topeka-based Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas.
"But that's all it is -- a start," Jones said. "There are still going to be 400-some people on the waiting list; and the list is going to continue to grow as more and more people with disabilities realize they have options, they don't have to go to a nursing home."
In an important related story, a recent ruling by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that people with disabilities have a right to live in community settings and that states must provide the services needed to make that happen -- regardless of the states' budget situation.
According to Kirk Lowry, an attorney with Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, the appeals court decision in an Oklahoma case clarifies a formerly gray area in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. & E.W. Known as the Olmstead ruling, the high court said that it is a form of discrimination to keep people in nursing homes and other institutions unnecessarily when they could be served in community. What the high court had not made clear was whether people who were not yet in nursing homes had the right to community-based services.
Lowry explained that the appellate court ruling clearly says they do.
"It says unnecessary institutionalization -- putting people in nursing homes who could live in the community -- is discriminatory," he said. "It doesn't matter if that person is already in a nursing home or happens to be holding on in the community."
"Disabled Kansans' wait at end" (Lawrence Journal-World)
"Ruling could mandate states find way to provide community settings" (Lawrence Journal-World)