Kansas shakes up its social services system

Brownback calls the social services shakeup “a crucial component of KanCare.”

06/30/2012 12:00 AM

05/16/2014 6:54 PM

The alphabet soup of agencies that provide social services to Kansans — SRS, KDOA, KDHE — is being scrambled in what officials are claiming is the biggest reorganization in the history of Kansas state government.

Effective today, several programs will move from one agency to another and agency shorthand titles will change. The result, officials say, will be a more streamlined and efficient way of delivering services to children, the disabled, the poor and the elderly.

The reorganization also is seen as necessary for KanCare, Gov. Sam Brownback’s initiative to overhaul the way Medicaid works in Kansas. Brownback called it “a crucial component of KanCare” in announcing his executive order for the shakeup.

In summary:

• The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is becoming the Department for Children and Families and will be known as DCF.

• The Department on Aging is becoming the Department for Aging and Disability Services and will be known as KDADS.

• The Department of Health and Environment is not changing its name, but some of its responsibilities are changing.

State officials say that no service now being provided will be eliminated and that people receiving services should not experience any disruption or significant changes.

The Department for Children and Families will concentrate on child abuse prevention and welfare programs. It will be about half as big as its precursor because many of the rehabilitation programs will go elsewhere.

“I think the (former department) has been doing a good job of serving children and families, but I think this reorganization will allow us to do it better,” said Phyllis Gilmore, the secretary of the new Department for Children and Families. “When you’re pulled in so many directions, it is hard to stay focused. That’s what we plan to do, stay focused on our core mission.”

The Department for Aging and Disability Services will be responsible for programs affecting the elderly and people with physical and developmental disabilities, as well as addiction and mental health programs. It will also assume oversight of the five state hospitals.

“Our agency will have all the long-term-care programs,” said the department’s secretary, Shawn Sullivan, noting that providers contracting with the state to deliver services often complained of having to deal with differing agencies and practices. “Closer interaction between programs that are currently segmented out, we think, is the best way to achieve better care.”

Most of the state programs provided through Medicaid will now be consolidated in Sullivan’s department. But the Department of Health and Environment will oversee Medicaid financial management as part of Brownback’s KanCare initiative.

With KanCare, the state is trying to overhaul its $2.9 billion Medicaid program, which provides health coverage to about 380,000 poor, disabled and elderly Kansans. The concept is to move all Medicaid participants into managed care. The administration projects the savings will exceed $1 billion over five years.

Critics, however, have been skeptical, and protests this spring persuaded the administration to delay moving programs for the developmentally disabled into managed care.

Projected savings through KanCare are to come from the bureaucratic streamlining and from financial incentives built into managed care contracts. The state last week awarded contracts to three health insurance companies to manage the state’s Medicaid programs: Amerigroup Kansas Inc., United Healthcare of the Midwest Inc. and Sunflower State Health Plan.

The contracts are effective Jan. 1, but Kansas still needs a waiver from the federal government for the planned overhaul.

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