Governor Docking’s Executive Reorganization Order Number One was issued in 1973, creating the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to replace the state board and department of social welfare. Under the order, the governor appointed Dr. Robert Harder as the first secretary of SRS. In the same year, legislation was passed to transfer all welfare programs from the counties to SRS, creating an umbrella agency administering all social welfare programs in the state.
By 1977 the SRS umbrella agency was comprised of divisions of administration; mental health and retardation; income maintenance, including Medicaid; vocational rehabilitation; children, youth and adults; and special programs including alcohol and drug abuse, services, to the blind, child support enforcement, and emergency preparedness.
The system of county administration and state supervision meant Kansas lacked a uniform welfare program across the board. Following adoption of Executive Reorganization Order Number 1, the entire state system was reorganized into SRS within a span of about 9 months. As Dr. Harder told the Topeka Capitol Journal in 1973, “There probably has not been such a legislative mandate to fulfill in such a short time span of time.”
Change was a constant throughout the decade as the state took on its new role. The TB hospital in Chanute closed, Services for the Aging were transferred to the newly created Department on Aging, and the Child Support Enforcement program was expanded to include non-public assistance clients. Through it all, the passion and commitment of the SRS staff never wavered even as more programs were added.
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