Special to The Hays Daily News

Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas announced it is restructuring some of its services in northwest Kansas, part of an effort to balance a budget deficit.

That deficit has been brought on by what the group is calling "chronic underfunding" of community services for many years coupled with rising costs.

DSNWK will reduces some services and its presence in some western Kansas communities.

The group will no longer be able to continue making day and residential services available in Oakley, a location in which DSNWK has been providing services since 1993. Programs in Oakley will cease by the end of January.

DSNWK is working with affected individuals and their families to assist in the transition efforts, the agency said.

In Hill City, DSNWK will be consolidating services through the closing of one of its group homes serving six individuals. As a result, individuals will be moving to other locations with openings or offered alternative services. Other changes occurring throughout DSNWK include eliminating positions and reducing employee hours in Hays, Norton and Russell. Freezing capital expenditures and reducing monthly expenses agency-wide have also been implemented.

"These changes have been some of the most difficult steps we have had to take," DSNWK President Jerry Michaud said in a statement. "Action brought on by the chronic under-funding of the community support system. Our mission-driven effort to provide services and supports has been relegated to reducing some of the very services and options for families and developed to meet the real needs of people and their families here in northwest Kansas. The state administration and the Legislature are those empowered to appropriate adequate and reasonable resources to address the essential needs of our most vulnerable Kansans."

These setbacks are causing harm to core services and are negatively affecting the lives of people we have supported for decades, their families, and our staff who have been dedicated to implementing our Mission in their work efforts," stated Jerry Michaud, President of DSNWK.

DSNWK has been faced with continuous funding shortages for many years. DSNWK's core funding (HCBS Waiver) has not seen a rate increase since 2008. In 2008, because of funding shortages or cuts, DSNWK was forced to close their Colby location, consolidate residential service settings throughout their service area, and eliminate many staff positions to remain fiscally balanced.

"Unfortunately these changes are very necessary and reflect the real effect of what funding cuts and inadequate rates do to the community service network across the State of Kansas for persons with developmental disabilities. We appeal to our State Legislators, the Governor and policy makers to recognize the damage taking place, halt actions that may cause further damage and address the flat rates and push for the long overdue adjustments needed to course-correct the downward path of these essential services," stated Michaud.