The nineties ushered in major reform initiatives at both the state and federal levels, and multiple leadership changes for SRS.
In 1990 the federal government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, mandating accessibility and opening the door for increased employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
That same year Dennis Taylor was appointed secretary of SRS by Governor Hayden. He served until 1991 when Dr. Harder briefly returned as Acting Secretary under the Finney Administration. Donna Whiteman was appointed Secretary later that same year.
Family Agenda funding approved by the 1992 legislature allowed for statewide expansion of family preservation services. The following year, the Family Preservation and Family Support Act provided funding to states to promote family strength and stability, enhance parental functioning and protect children. The Adoption and Safe Families Act was later passed by Congress in 1997 emphasizing child safety as a priority and clarifying reasonable efforts to reunify families.
Deinstitutionalization and expansion of community based services continued to increase throughout the nineties. The Mental Health Reform Act of 1990 helped the state draw upon more resources for the community mental health system and gave Community Mental Health Centers the power to determine an individual’s appropriate level of community or hospital care.
The Community Integration Project was launched in 1991 to provide a mechanism for individuals to transition out of state mental retardation hospitals into community settings. The vision was for individuals to “live, work, play and learn in natural, inclusive settings, to direct their individual plan, be supported in the context of family and friends and receive respect for their lifestyle and culture.’
SRS implemented a home and community based services waiver to serve medically fragile children dependent upon medical technology and a waiver to serve individuals with traumatic brain injuries – making Kansas the first state to do so. Waivers for individuals with physical disabilities, the frail elderly and children with severe emotional disturbance were also implemented in the nineties.
A five year plan for reform in the developmental disability system was introduced in 1991 and set the stage for fundamental changes in the funding system, downsizing of institutions, and the introduction of a Home and Community Based Services Waiver specific to individuals with developmental disabilities. Later, the Kansas Legislature passed the Developmental Disabilities Reform Act in 1995 putting person centered support planning into statute and designating Community Developmental Disability Organizations as the single point of entry. At that time, the Secretary directed regulations to be written creating a system requiring person centered planning as the core of not only the planning process but as the primary criteria for granting a license to Community Service Providers. Shortly thereafter, community based funding surpassed funding for state mental retardation hospitals.
Changes were taking place at the state hospitals as well. During the 1994 legislative session, a bill was introduced to establish a civil commitment process for sexually violent predators completing their prison sentence. The bill received broad support and ultimately passed, establishing the Kansas Sex Predator Treatment Program at the Larned State Hospital. The law itself has been challenged more than once. A number of U.S. Supreme Court cases, most notably Youngberg v. Romeo and Foucha v. Louisiana have made clear the obligation of a state to provide a minimally acceptable and appropriate level of professional treatment to those individuals who are forcibly detained from their liberty. The 1997 Kansas v. Hendricks case is largely premised upon the principle that it is the fact of appropriate treatment being offered to the committed person which distinguishes a constitutional law from an unconstitutional sham. In the leading case to date from an attempted challenge to a sex predator program by committed residents, Turay v. Seling, from Washington state, the Court recited ten specific standards by which an institutional based program must be judged in order to meet substantive due process to pass constitutional muster.
Person Centered Care was implemented at state mental retardation hospitals, putting patients at the forefront of case planning and ensuring their true needs and wants act as the basis for the services they receive. This new management style focused on honoring individual choice – choice in terms of where a person wants to live, who they want to live with, and how they want to spend their time, engaging in meaningful work and fulfilling social activities. It also gave individuals with developmental disabilities and their families a right to self-advocacy and the ability to drive the quality of the service delivery system.
Both Winfield and Topeka State Hospitals were targeted for closure; Topeka State Hospital closed in 1997 and Winfield closed its doors after 117 years of serving individuals with mental illness in 1998 along with six of the state’s large Intermediate Care Facilities for individuals with mental retardation.
Kansas took on welfare reform in 1994, beating the feds to the punch by two years. These efforts focused on prevention and accountability. Federal reform also ended the statutory entitlement to Aid to Families with Dependent Children, completely transforming welfare.
Rochelle Chronister was appointed secretary in 1995, amid a time of great change in the Kansas child welfare system.
In the early 1990’s the agency faced a class action lawsuit initially filed by a Topeka attorney, Rene Netherton, who was later joined in the action by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit claimed SRS was violating the constitutional rights of the children it served.
In 1995, the House Subcommittee recommended SRS move toward privatization. According to the committee, “The long term benefits to children is a compelling reason to move with all due speed toward privatization.” This shift reflected a growing sentiment throughout the nation for a changed role for government to that of manager of human services rather than provider of services. This was to promote stronger partnerships between public and private sectors. Today, Kansas is widely seen as a leader in child welfare practices.
Governor Graves took office in 1996 with an eye to streamline state government, promising to “pack ‘em high and tight.” He was a driving force behind the decision to privatize foster care services, as were Secretary Rochelle Chronister. By 1997 the agency began contracting with not for profit child welfare agencies to perform foster care services, while SRS took on a monitoring role and refocused the efforts of it’s staff on investigating reports of child abuse. Today SRS contracts with six community based child welfare service providers for family preservation, foster care and adoption services.
In 1997 the electronic benefit transfer system went statewide, allowing beneficiaries to access cash and food assistance benefits through their Vision card. Because it works like a debit card, the Vision card provides dignity to SRS customers by removing the stigma attached to using food assistance coupons. In 2005 child care assistance was added to the Vision card program. Low income families had greater access to medical care as Kan Be Healthy expanded and Healthwave was initiated, providing coverage to children of low-income working families.
By the end of the nineties all long term care programs for the elderly were transferred to the Kansas Department on Aging and all juvenile offender programs were transferred to the newly created Juvenile Justice Authority.
Rounding out the decade, Janet Schalansky was appointed Secretary in 1999.