Andy Marso/KHI News

  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was on hand Thursday for the unveiling of a book to educate children about interacting with people who have disabilities.

“Darby Boingg Has an Adventure and Meets a Person with Disabilities” features Boingg, a wallaby with human characteristics, who meets Ian, a young man in a motorized wheelchair.

Sunflower State Health Plan hosted the book signing at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. The event featured  author Michelle Bain and Ian Kuenzi, a Topekan with cerebral palsy who was her inspiration.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that the department is still investigating complaints about Medicaid waiting lists for disability services in Kansas.

The services are daily living supports in home and community-based settings that people with disabilities would normally receive Medicaid coverage for if they were in assisted living facilities.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A year ago there were almost 3,500 Kansans with physical disabilities awaiting Medicaid coverage for services to help them live in their homes and communities.

Much has changed in 12 months. The physical disability (PD) waiting list is down to fewer than 1,500 people, and Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told members of the National Council on Disability who visited Topeka earlier this month that more reductions are coming.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansans with disabilities make up about one-fourth of KanCare, the state’s managed care Medicaid model.

But they’re a vocal segment, and they and their advocates painted a picture Tuesday of a system struggling to provide them with the long-term supports they need to stay in their homes and communities rather than institutions.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

It looks like the state won’t be spending more money on its four hospitals for people whose disabilities or mental illnesses prevent them from safely caring for themselves.

Budget committees in the House and Senate have adopted Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for keeping the hospitals at their current spending levels through fiscal year 2017.

The committees each have forwarded their flat-spending recommendations to their respective chambers.

A Kansas House committee unanimously passed a bill Tuesday to allow for tax-free savings accounts for children with disabilities. But even as they sent the bill to the full House, committee members expressed concerns that cost could keep it from coming up for a vote there.

House Bill 2100 would allow the families of Kansas children with disabilities up to age 26 to set aside up to $14,000 a year for them, with up to $100,000 not counting against their Medicaid benefits.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor


On a day when Congressman Kevin Yoder testified before a Kansas House committee, it was a 15-year-old Olathe South High School freshman who stole the show.

Rachel Mast, who has Down syndrome, ebulliently encouraged the Children and Seniors Committee to approve a bill to allow tax-exempt savings accounts for Kansas children with disabilities that would not jeopardize their Medicaid benefits.

Courtesy photo / KCUR

Finn Bullers guides his $30,000 electric wheelchair by using the bright beam of a light lodged in its frame.

The 51-year-old has been battling Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy, since he was growing up in Iowa.

As a young boy, Bullers would stuff his clothes with pillows to defy his already atrophying body and spend hours on a frozen farm pond trying to skate like the other kids.

State officials say they’re having a hard time contacting disabled people who have expressed interest in receiving Medicaid-funded services designed to help them live in community-based settings.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Kari Bruffett on Friday said that between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15, the agency had reached out to 1,627 people on its waiting list for services for people with physical disabilities.

More than 830 of these individuals are now receiving services.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service



Parents of adult children with developmental disabilities say state officials are breaking a pledge made during negotiations last year that led legislators to include Medicaid-funded home- and community-based services for the developmentally disabled in the state's KanCare program.

Wikimedia Commons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis says if elected, he will reverse Gov. Sam Brownback’s controversial decision to put the private companies managing the state’s Medicaid program in charge of delivering support services to Kansans with developmental disabilities.

Brownback, a conservative Republican seeking a second term, privatized the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program in 2013 and renamed it KanCare to achieve two — and some say conflicting — goals of improving care and reducing costs.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

State officials are intensifying their efforts to help Kansans with disabilities get jobs.

But advocates in the disability community are skeptical that an initiative announced Monday will be enough to reverse a recent trend that has seen a steady decline in the number of Kansans with disabilities placed in jobs.

The initiative, dubbed “End-Dependence Kansas,” will provide $25 million in mostly federal funds over the next five years to organizations that operate programs that help people with disabilities find employment.

A state official charged with overseeing Medicaid-funded services that help people with disabilities live in community-based settings rather than in nursing homes said Tuesday that coming changes in federal wage and hour rules are likely to increase costs, reduce access to care and give beneficiaries less say in deciding who will provide their care.

Wikipedia, Accessible Icon Project

Merriam has become the first city in the Midwest to adopt a more contemporary version of the wheelchair-accessible icon. At a town hall meeting Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to replace the old icon, which has been in use since 1968.

“I have to give the city council credit for that because they believed in that and they wanted to welcome disabled people into the community," says Al Frisby, the councilman who proposed the change after a friend, Finn Bullers, called the new icon to his attention.

Lourdes Irizarry / paradoxsports.tumblr.com

You wouldn’t think mountain climbing would be an activity a paraplegic person could still enjoy. But one group’s efforts to adapt activities like mountain climbing are coming to fruition.

In the first part of Friday's Up to Date, we talk about how they’re making sports more available to people with disabilities and what inspired them to get involved with this project.


While the legislative session in Kansas has ended, many advocates for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities are now worried about how the approved budget will affect services for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Advocates like Tom Laing, with the service organization InterHab, fought against a proposed plan that would move non medical services, like adult day care, into a new Medicaid managed care program called KanCare.

In the final moments of the legislative session, lawmakers moved forward with that plan.