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Advocacy group saying Kan. short-changing disabled


TOPEKA (AP) -- For four years, Kansas has failed to comply with targets for delivery of services to developmentally disabled people, a Topeka advocacy organization says, and is violating federal law by maintaining a waiting list of enrollees who are receiving only a portion of the benefits to which they are entitled.

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas says 3,300 developmentally disabled Kansans who qualify for Medicaid services continue to be denied aid, while the state left empty several hundred slots it was obligated to fill from 2009 to 2013, The Topeka Capital Journal reported (http://bit.ly/16gJTC4 ).

The number of vacancies has grown each of the past four years and contributed to delays of up to five years for people to begin receiving home- and community-based aid, the advocacy group said.

The group also concluded the state wasn't complying with federal law by maintaining an underserved category of nearly 1,900 people who were receiving some, but not all, services applicable to their disabilities. That number has expanded in each of the past two years, the group said.

"They are harming people with intellectual and developmental disabilities two different ways, and it's causing irreparable harm," said Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center. "They're harming them on the front end in by not serving the number of slots promised," he said. "What compounds insult to that injury is that, once they're clear of the waiting list, they are oftentimes put on a new waiting list within the program."

States must follow through with promises to the federal government to serve a set number of people, Nichols said, and can't maintain a second-tier list for the underserved.

Officials with the state government and federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were aware of concerns about the legality of Kansas' underserved waiting list, said Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

"The state's aware of it. CMS is aware of it," De Rocha said. "People can say it is illegal, but that doesn't move us forward in solving the problem."

The waiting lists appear to have been formed in 2000 under Republican Gov. Bill Graves and continued under the leadership of Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

The cost of closing the underserved gap will be in the millions of dollars, Nichols said, but the state has an obligation to address the problem.