www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Water vision -7/29/2014, 9:48 AM

No longer a supporter -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

The power of punctuation -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

Running for the wrong bus -7/28/2014, 9:04 AM

Old Old Mexico -- Culture and content -7/28/2014, 9:03 AM

The defining issue of economic recovery -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done? -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

Funding DHDC -7/27/2014, 1:18 PM

Endorsement for Shultz -7/25/2014, 3:28 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Who'll build the roads? -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Reagan: In or out? -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

'Unbroken' WWII vet more than a hero -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Savor the fruits of your labor -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Erasing candidate's standards -7/15/2014, 11:36 AM

Returning to Trail Wood -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Leaving some in 'suspense' -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Strangers in a remarkable land -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Courageous or spineless? Our actions decide -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Ambition: An unlikely gift to Kansas voters -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Beyond the outrage -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Water watch -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Scenic outlooks -7/11/2014, 9:18 AM

China's research trumps teaching -7/11/2014, 9:17 AM

Important slow news -7/10/2014, 9:42 AM

We've got a promise to keep -7/10/2014, 9:33 AM

The white combine calls -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Vote for family values -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Politicians making a mockery of my faith -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Missing tribute -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Rural students deserve 21st Century education -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

The education table dance -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

A new virus -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

Government as God -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

EPA affecting others -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

'Narrow' decision from the narrow-minded -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

The tax trap -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Rulings produce 'First Amendment fireworks' -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Firefighter salaries -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Economic freedom -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Protecting our independence -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Dan Johnson, 1936-2014 -7/3/2014, 7:12 AM

New Iraq offensive backfires -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Setting things straight -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

'Crapitalism' -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Feeding peace throughout the world -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Half way is still only half way -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Sherow a better choice -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Fireworks, part II -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Reality show made in Topeka -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

The justices and their cellphones -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

LOB defeated -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

Tragedy explored in 'Broken Heart Land' -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Mexico City: The adventure continues -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Even our youngest Americans are citizens -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

Ban on fireworks -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

It's time to teach active citizenship -6/29/2014, 12:57 PM

The education establishment's success -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Piecework professors -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Marriage for all -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Prairie chicken madness -6/26/2014, 4:17 PM

Omission control -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Equal in the eyes of the law -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Help wanted -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

The old red barn -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Beware the unimaginable -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Early critic of school testing was right -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Finding something 'different' in Topeka -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Shopping small -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Into the classroom -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Wow! And thanks to you -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Fireworks double-standard -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Glass half full -6/22/2014, 5:57 PM

Brownback's experiment wallops taxpayers -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Examining the importance of 'where' we speak -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Slavery reparations -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

'Help me plagiarize' -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

Thank a farmer -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Advocating for vulnerable Kansans

Published on -12/29/2013, 1:47 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

In this season of good will, it is fitting to recognize a Kansan who engages in state politics by serving as a champion in behalf of our state's most vulnerable residents. That person is Tom Laing, who during the past 20 years has been a constant and tenacious advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.

Officially, Laing is the executive director of InterHab, a statewide association of community organizations that serve individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. He has guided the association by placing its focus on expanding individual choice for disabled Kansans in education and employment and assuring their right to live independently in the community.

Laing's focus and impact on state policy are nowhere more apparent than in the enactment of the Kansas Developmental Disabilities Reform Act of 1995. The act emphasized the individual rights of the disabled and initiated a state-local partnership in the delivery of community services through nonprofit and for-profit agencies throughout the state.

Since 1995, Laing has faced off each year with governors and state lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, to advocate for adequate funding to implement the act. Today, 8,600 Kansans with developmental disabilities are being served through a statewide network of community-based organizations, rather than through expensive, unwieldy state institutions where thousands of persons were segregated in prior decades.

Laing leads by speaking truth to power. In the words of Colin McKenney, CEO of Starkey, a Wichita-area provider of services to the disabled: "When it comes to saying what needs to be said about the needs of Kansans with disabilities, I don't think Tom spends much time worrying about who might be offended by the truth."

Still, not all who seek services are being served. More than 4,600 eligible persons remain on a wait list for services and are at the top of Laing's agenda.

Laing's most recent battle on behalf of disabled residents has been to carve their services out from under KanCare, Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to have the state Medicaid program managed by three for-profit, out-of-state insurance companies (termed "managed care organizations" or MCOs).

Laing has been in the forefront of challenging Brownback's insistence that services to Kansans with developmental disabilities be wrapped under KanCare and managed by MCOs, even though no other state has attempted what Brownback proposes. In the 2012 legislative session, along with other advocates, Laing persuaded state lawmakers to reject the governor's recommendation and defer coverage for these disabled for one year, to Jan. 1.

MCO missteps in implementing KanCare have strengthened the resolve of Laing and his allies to again square off against the Brownback administration and resist covering these disabled through KanCare. Delayed payments to providers, red-tape in managing claims and unqualified MCO staff -- among other issues -- have plagued the performance of KanCare throughout the year. Further, the Brownback administration has failed to secure final approval of federal officials to include persons with developmental disabilities under KanCare.

So, in the waning days of December, hours before the next deadline, Laing once more has taken the lead in advocating for disabled Kansans. Undeterred by fears of political retribution, he along with supporters have showered federal officials with commentary that KanCare is not an appropriate vehicle for managing long-term services for the disabled. National advocates have added their support as well.

As 2013 comes to a close, Laing again might be found at work in the trenches on behalf of our state's most vulnerable citizens. He walks among a group of extraordinary Kansans who have made Kansas a better place to live for all our citizens.

H. Edward Flentje is a professor at Wichita State University. His adult stepson, Ryan, has Down syndrome and benefits from the

advocacy of Tom Laing.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.

Kansas News