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Michaud miffed by care services

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

When Jerry Michaud, president of Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, discusses KanCare and the process of leading efforts to "carve out" those with developmental disabilities from the program, he acknowledges his frustration.

"It's been lot of effort to try to do damage control, to prevent what we believe would just be mistakes" he said. "In the process, we haven't talked about the real issues which are that our system needs to be shored up.

"It would have been a complete mistake to have sat back and just let things roll."

Last week, Gov. Sam Brownback agreed to delay addition of long-term care services for those with developmental disabilities into his Medicaid privatization plan.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a budget proviso brought by state Rep. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, that excludes until Jan. 1, 2014, the long-term services from Brownback's KanCare plan, which will turn over Medicaid to managed care companies.

"Our contention from the very beginning was the long-term care support, specifically for the developmentally disabled population doesn't fit," Michaud said. "Other states have deliberately carved it out because it didn't fit."

Although the proviso delayed implementation of the long-term services portion of the plan, Michaud said he believes those services should be carved out of the plan permanently instead of simply delaying the process.

More than 30 people from northwest Kansas rallied legislators last week for a Push Day event, sharing the stories of those most affected by Brownback's proposed changes.

DSNWK Direct Support Professional Connie Holloway traveled to Topeka for the event and said she was moved by the stories of clients who brought mementos to display outside the capital.

"They are citizens of Kansas," she said. "They had the opportunity at the microphone to speak about not wanting to have their benefits cut ... why this funding allows them to live in these homes and to strive to have a life where they can feel good about themselves."

Holloway said Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, and Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, showed a "heart for the people" when they took time to hear stories and meet DSNWK's clients.

Holloway said she was unsure what effect the addition of long-term services to KanCare might have on her career with DSNWK.

"I think they're proposing something that they're not even sure what consequences there could be," she said.

Her efforts to work to carve out the long-term portion of the program will continue, Holloway said, because she fears the changes could be detrimental to DSNWK clients.

"We've worked so hard to get them where they're at," she said. "Life is tough enough for them as it is, but to throw something at them that I don't think has been thought out really well ... I think it's a little devastating."