Advocates voice concern and hope for funding to address disabilities waiver program

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – As a mom of two sons with autism, Cassandra Sines knows life can be challenging.

“There’s a lot of times where you don’t know what is going on. You don’t know where to turn. You don’t know what to do,” said Sines.

Her oldest is 19 years old. Thanks to crisis funding from the state, he is able to be placed in a residential program. However, Sines knows that is not the case for all families.

“Families can’t get services because the (I/DD) waiting list is 9 to 10 years right now,” she said.

Kansas’ Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Waiver Program is designed to provide services for those who meet the criteria support they need. Examples include adult day services, home care, residential care, and more.

The waiting list for the IDD Waiver Program currently has 4,672 Kansans. About 21% of those are in Sedgwick County.

“The people who are coming off the waiting list this year applied for services 10 years ago. So their child may have been a middle school student, and now they’re an adult graduating from high school and maybe even sitting at home at this time because they haven’t been able to get into those services,” said Kevin Fish, the executive director at Ability Point.

Time is not the only challenge when it comes to getting services.

“Our service system doesn’t have the capacity to bring all those people on,” Fish said. “They are struggling to serve who they currently have and so if we were to bring on another 1,000 people off the waiting list, there’s not an agency that can absorb them.”

Another hurdle is competition for staff. Since the state’s reimbursements currently sit lower than other minimum wage jobs.

“When workers are telling families that they cannot work for them because they can go make $12-15 an hour working at a fast-food restaurant there’s a problem,” Sines said.

“We’ve got to come up with a systematic plan that addresses the capacity issues, but then also says we know we can’t get these people off in the next 10 years. But could we do it in the next five years? Seven years? and try to eliminate that waiting list when we get there,” Fish said.

Sines has reached out to state lawmakers about the need for more funding.

The Kansas state legislature currently has a special committee to focus on the disability waiver.

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