During the eighties, SRS entered a period of rapidly expanding services. The Division of Services for the Blind and the Kansas Commission for Deaf and Hearing Impaired were established. An Executive Order created both the Youth and the Adult Services, each led by a commissioner.
The first Adult Protective Services statute was enacted in Kansas to protect adults residing in institutions. In the following years amendments were passed to expand protection to individuals over 18 residing in the community or within facilities.
Federal changes affected the agency as well.
Congress enacted the Low Income Energy Assistance Program in 1980 to help households cope with rising energy costs and within two months of the program’s authorization, SRS began taking applications.
In 1983, Kansas became one of the first four states in the nation to implement a Home and Community Based Services waiver, which provided services to both individuals in nursing facilities and with developmental disabilities in community settings. The waiver set the stage for future efforts to provide community based services, rather than institutional care. A few years later the methodology for distributing funding to Community Mental Health Centers and Community Mental Retardation Centers was restructured.
The Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act passed Congress in 1985 and increased Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and children. Federal law required coverage to pregnant women and children up to 133 per cent of the federal poverty level, but the Kansas legislature increased the limit to 150 per cent of the poverty level.
The Federal Food Security Act was passed that same year and required all states to implement employment and training programs for food stamp recipients; expanded the definition of "disabled, "; made households receiving AFDC, SSI, or other disability payments under the Social Security Act categorically eligible for the food stamp program; and prohibited termination of food stamp benefits solely on the basis of termination of participation in another program.
1987 marked the end of an era as the agency said good-bye to Dr. Harder and welcomed Winston Barton as the new Secretary of SRS. Following challenges faced at the state mental retardation hospitals, Governor Hayden appointed Secretary Barton in part due to his experience working with the federal Health Care Finance Administration. Over the next couple of years a series of efforts focused on supporting families. The KanWork statute was passed allowing the state to examine the barriers to employment for women. In 1988 the implementation of Kansas’ first family preservation pilots allowed SRS to expend resources for intensive intervention and treatment with families to prevent out of home placements.
In 1988, Norton State Hospital closed. When the closure was announced in 1987 the hospital employed nearly 300 staff and became the first hospital closure and large scale lay off for SRS. The hospital struggled to maintain appropriate care and staffing levels during this time period. The lessons learned during the Norton closure would become important in later years, allowing for smoother transitions for future hospital closings.