InterHab Sees Progress During 2021 Kansas Legislative Session
TECH is fortunate to be a member of InterHab, an association here in Kansas that has been working to improve the lives of Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 50 years. Much of InterHab's work is done at a legislative level, raising public awareness of developmental disabilities and advocating for services and supports for the people we serve.
As the 2021 Kansas Legislature session comes to a close, I felt it was important to share the outcomes of the work the InterHab group and it's members have done over the past year. I feel it has been very productive and there have been some great outcomes for providers like TECH, and more importantly, the people we serve. Below is a recap of progress from Interhab's Executive Director, Matt Fletcher:
IDD Waiting List:
InterHab and its members provided significant advocacy during this legislative session in urging legislators to begin planning for elimination of the IDD waiting list that now totals more than 4,000 adults and children. As a result, work is underway to create a special legislative interim committee that will examine the waiting list and make recommendations for its elimination.
Two legislative initiatives will further the work done on behalf of Kansans with IDD who also have complex needs, such as behavioral health, physical care or aging-related issues. First, InterHab continued its strong advocacy on behalf of persons with IDD who also have significant behavioral health needs. InterHab's bill to create mobile crisis response resources was passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee. Most importantly, the concepts contained within InterHab's bill ultimately will receive a significant portion of $3 million in state funds appropriated by the legislature as part of the State's new "9-8-8" crisis services initiative. We will work with KDADS to determine how best to proceed in investing these new funds to address the emergent behavioral health needs of the IDD population.
Also, House Bill 2114, a bill to create a first-ever Senior Care Task Force in Kansas was amended to include a representative to be named by InterHab. This is a significant step in gaining recognition of the needs of Kansans with IDD who have age-related illnesses.
House Bill 2126, a bill to provide COVID-related liability immunity, was amended to include IDD service providers. The bill was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Kelly on April 9. The bill will help ensure that IDD providers don't fall prey to inordinate hikes in insurance costs due to the pandemic.
IDD Provider Funding:
The most significant outcome of the session was the addition of more than $5 million to the current fiscal year's budget and $31 million to next fiscal year's budget for increased IDD provider rates. These funds are badly-needed by the IDD provider network. This addition of funds equates to a "pro-rated" 5% increase in provider rates for the remainder of this fiscal year and a 7% increase in provider rates in State Fiscal Year 2022 (beginning in July).
These increases were championed by legislative leaders in both the House and Senate, including Senators Rick Billinger and Carolyn McGinn and Representatives Troy Waymaster, Will Carpenter and Barbara Ballard. We appreciate every legislator that cast a vote for House Bill 2007, which contained these funds. We also appreciate Governor Kelly's signing of HB 2007 in early May.
Lots of significant work was done on additional efforts to improve outcomes for Kansans with IDD. The protected income limit was raised to 300% of social security income for HCBS recipients. This will greatly impact the amount of funds that persons on the HCBS waiver will be able to hang on to each month without fear of being penalized.
HB 2219, a bill to create a new tax credit for employment of persons with disabilities, sailed through the Kansas House but then stalled in the Senate as other matters took up precious remaining time in the Omnibus Session. The good news is that 2021 is the first year of a new legislative biennium, meaning that this bill can continue to be advanced when the legislature comes back to Topeka in January.
While advocacy may not always be at the forefront of the work that we do, it's the heart of our mission. Our team here at TECH is committed to improving the lives of those we serve, both here in Hutchinson through our services or in Topkea at the capital. We are looking forward to the outcomes from the progress and look forward to continuing to be a voice for people with disabilities in Kansas.