KNI Closure Conversation:
All who have sat through closure hearings know the routine. Yesterday's House Social Services Budget Committee was no different:
State officials make comments as bland as margarine. Parents and Guardians express concerns from perspectives of fear, anger and confusion. Advocates on both sides express polarizing views that overgeneralize, oversimplify, and mostly provoke dueling philosophies. Community provider representatives find themselves pushed and pulled, heroes to some on the one side, villains to some on the other side. (Yesterday, supporters of closure were compared to murderers. Yikes.)
Into this discussion legislators find themselves thrust. Some know more than a little, and some are considering closure questions for the first time. As sure as the sunrise, however, these legislators will make recommendations and decisions despite the confusion and despite their lack of thorough preparation and education on the matter. That is the nature of the legislative response to complex questions. Someone annually laments how little the legislators really know about the subjects of gravity upon which they will cast their votes. How can they, I respond. They are not elected as a panel of experts on all subjects, but as representatives of common sense and conscience in the community.
What we hope for, in this as in all questions, is that having heard from all parties, the decisions of the legislature will be common-sensible and conscientious. Sometimes that happens, it really does.
Yesterday’s hearing included all of the above, and then some.
Lost in the fray, seemingly always, are those most affected.
The persons living in the institution were either overgeneralized in the views that purported to represent them, or were paternalistically regarded as “these people” and “those people” which are the phrases you always hear from those who find it easier, or intellectually more manageable, to lump all persons with intellectual disabilities into one “group” of sameness.
At the end of the day, as we have often said:
- the needs of person who receives service, irrespective of the setting, must be met with resources that are adequate and reasonable,
- the institutions must be regarded as only one part of the “DD service network” and their value to the persons they serve must be weighed against the financing they require.
- the financing required for each person to be served in the community, if closure occurs, must be transferred to the community budgets in the amounts needed for that person, (not a dollar more, not a dollar less).
- the dollars which will be left after closure must be invested back into the DD network.
Who knows that the outcome will be? Shawnee County legislators are aggressively attempting to save KNI. The local chamber, newspaper, medical society, and so on … just as was the case at Winfield, are aligned to save KNI. The misinformation is discouraging and frustrating, but .. not any different than was the case at Winfield, and probably at Norton as well.
At this end, we are keeping our eye on the ball.
Persons with disabilities are not game pieces, nor economic chattle. Persons with disabilities who are waiting for service should no longer have to endure political decisions which spend too much on some, and none on others whose needs are equally or more pressing. Persons receiving community services should not have to continue to see their very successful lives being denigrated, nor devalued by political debates about the worth of the services they have received, which have long been proven.
More to come as the debate continues.