“Remember Me, #RememberIDD” was the rallying cry for Kansans with developmental disabilities at a gathering Tuesday in Topeka.
The annual Push Day rally is organized by InterHab Inc., the statewide association for developmental disability service providers.
This year’s event was a message to lawmakers to keep those providers and their clients in mind as they consider increases to Medicaid reimbursements for home and community-based services.
Summer Whitaker with Mosaic in Ellsworth, a faith-based organization that serves people with intellectual disabilities, says the agency has been struggling to overcome the lack of funding.
“We’ve lost employees. We’re losing people in the homes and our day site,” said Whitaker. “It’s really affecting us and it’s getting worse each year.”
Larry Green with Tri-Valley Developmental Services echoes Whitaker’s concerns about the future of the HCBS system.
Tri-Valley serves hundreds of clients in Chanute, Iola and Fort Scott, but dwindling resources are taking a toll on staff members as they try to maintain stability within the organization.
Green says Tri-Valley is trying to keep services and programs in place by cutting funds at the administrative level. But that approach has created its own set of challenges to overcome.
“Being able to keep staffing is one [of those challenges]. We just don’t have money to keep staff and that’s what we really need,” said Green. “We haven’t had to lay anyone off, but there are open positions we can’t fill.”
Whitaker and Green were among the many service providers, advocates and individuals with developmental disabilities who attended the rally on the south steps of the Statehouse. While lawmakers inside the Capitol Building continued the ongoing battles over taxes, school funding and concealed carry laws, those outside hoped to hear from Representatives on the pending HCBS legislation.
If passed, the bill would only see a modest increase in reimbursement rates, but for those who rely on the funds to maintain some level of independence and inclusiveness within their communities, it’s a start.
“[This is a] necessary first step towards addressing the ongoing needs of Kansans with developmental disabilities,” said Interhab Executive Director Tim Wood in a news release.
According to InterHab, lawmakers haven’t budged on raising rates that would benefit the nearly 9,000 Kansans with developmental disabilities who utilize the HCSB system.