April 2016 Letter from the CEO
After an infamous 2015 legislative session, I approached the 2016 session with caution, unsure of the challenges we would face or how long it would take to pass a budget. I’ve been making regular treks to Topeka throughout my time as CEO at TECH. Visiting with legislators on behalf of the people we serve, sharing our story, and making sure children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities were not forgotten is a task I believe is crucial to providing quality services. Without the state’s support, we could not do what we do for the hundreds of people we serve. It was a task I enjoyed and looked forward to, as I felt heard and welcomed in the capital.
Unfortunately, in more recent years, the responsibility of representing our organization in Topeka hasn’t always been as pleasant as it was in my earlier days. The politics have become much more intense, and in some ways, I’ve seen many of our state leaders lose sight of what’s really important to the people of Kansas.
Much to our disappointment, funding for our newly created Health Home program was discontinued through an executive order of the administration. This program offered mental health support services, not only to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also to those with mental health issues in the community-at-large. Health Homes hadn’t even been an option for two full years, but our state decided to discontinue the program because they didn’t see the anticipated cost savings from the program occur as quickly as they had wanted.
After months of planning, countless hours of training for our staff, and a significant amount of money invested into getting this program off the ground – this is a huge disappointment to TECH and the other Health Home organizations throughout the state. We believed that in time, this was a viable solution and a great benefit to addressing the ever-growing issue of mental health needs across our state. When you consider this program was funded 90% by federal dollars and only required a 10% match from the State of Kansas, this is a huge loss for the individuals served by the program.
In other news from Topeka – our state association, InterHab, recently hired a new executive director, Tim Wood. Tim previously served as Director of the Johnson County Community Developmental Disabilities Organization, and has extensive experience working in government affairs. While we will greatly miss our executive director of 22 years, Tom Laing, we look forward to this new chapter. We wish Tom all the best in his well-deserved retirement.
Lastly, you may have seen the news that TECH is pursuing a move to the newly-renovated Wiley Building. Manske and Associates, the building’s owner, is currently working with the architect and engineers on the final floor plan before they will seek bid proposals from contractors which will ultimately determine whether or not we can move forward with this project. I think having our headquarters located in a central and visible location in our community, closer to our Adult Life Skills program and Working Art Studio is important for the future growth and success of our organization. This endeavor could not have been undertaken without the generous support of Manske and Associates.
Not only will we be more woven into the fabric of Downtown Hutchinson, an area which has supported TECH through events such as Main Street Hops and Uncorked. We will also be able to achieve our goal and long-time dream of opening an art gallery and retail store where we can sell TECH Artists creations, including beautiful silk scarves, ties, and one of a kind pieces of art.
This is a move we have entered into carefully and with great consideration. TECH has been pursuing moving our headquarters to the Downtown area for several years, it is only now, that opportunity and timing have come together to allow us to make this move happen. We look forward to having a larger footprint in the downtown area, and integrating people with disabilities even more into the mainstream of our great community!
We spent much of the last year setting big, lofty goals, making strategic decisions, taking risks, and reaching higher than ever before in order to better serve our clients. We hope you’ll join us with enthusiasm and excitement for the potential this move holds.