Seven thousand people are waiting for help from the state of Kansas. It's gotten so bad the department of justice is now getting involved.
Kansas, like most states had tight budget during the 2008-2009 recession and couldn't afford to fund the state's disabled program. But as a result of that, many disabled people needing services are stuck on waitings list with no relief in sight.
In Johnson County, the Johnson County Developmental Supports office is the first line of defense for developmentally disabled people in need of assistance. But they haven't been getting much of it in recent years.
"Right now, our job with more than 850 of those individuals is to say, 'I'm sorry, but there is no funding. There is no help,'" Maury Thompson said.
Thompson is the executive director of Johnson County Developmental Supports, which helps mentally challenged adults integrate into society. Nearly 900 of the people he helps are caught in the state budget crunch.
"I see some pretty sad stories on a regular basis, families in desperate need of assistance to maintain their family in the community," he said.
There are about 5,000 developmentally disabled people on the state waiting list. Thompson said it costs at least $36,000 a year to take care each one of them - making it a nearly $200 million price tag the state legislature hasn't funded since 2008.
"As we were going through the recession there was good justification for that. We just flat out didn't have the money. But revenues have come back up," (D-KS) State Sen. Laura Kelly said.
Thursday in a legislative budget meeting, administrators for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disabled Services discussed working to pare down the list by 100 people, which Kelly said is a step in the right direction.
"We're not going to be able to take care of it all in one year. We don't have the resources for that, but we could set up a systematic approach to reducing that waiting list," she said.
The $36,000 price tag covers everything from housing, counseling, job training and eventually employment.
The federal government's Department of Justice is taking a look at whether the waiting list violates the Olmsted Act, a federal mandate which requires the state take care of disabled people in the least restrictive environment possible.
Of the 7,000 people on the waiting list, 5,000 are developmentally disabled and 2,000 are physically disabled.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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