[Masthead] Fair ~ 67°F  
High: 86°F ~ Low: 76°F
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Developmental Disability Reform Act

Friday, September 7, 2012

It is a rare occasion that both sides of the aisle in Topeka can agree upon any subject, but in 1995 that occurred. In that year, the Developmental Disability Reform Act was signed by Gov. Bill Graves and became law. The DDRA was a revolutionary concept that brought together a managed care system and local control. Some have even compared its impact on people with disabilities in Kansas to the Americans with Disabilities Act and its importance to people with disabilities on a national scale. Since its inception, the DDRA has become the guiding principle for services in our state and has been very successful with what it set out to do. The purpose of the act was to assist persons who have an intellectual or developmental disability have "services and supports which allow persons opportunities of choice to increase their independence and productivity and integration and inclusion into the community; access to a range of services and supports appropriate to such persons; and the same dignity and respect as persons who do not have a developmental disability."

It is interesting to note that much of the original planning and work on the conceptual draft of the DDRA was done by legislators from Southeast Kansas including Speaker of the House Tim Shallenburger (Baxter Springs) and Rep. Ed McKechnie (Pittsburg). Other legislators who had a hand in the DDRA were JoAnn Pottorff (Wichita), Gerry Geringer (Junction City) and Sandy Praeger (Lawrence). The amount of compromise that went into the establishment of the DDRA was incredible.

Tom Laing, executive director of Interhab remembers "...the hearings were unlike any I have attended, before or since. Advocates and SRS staff sat as a participating audience, asking questions, making comments when called upon ... very little in the way of formal testimony was given, instead, the principals in the audience were asked to offer comment throughout the committee's deliberations, out of which a final draft was presented to the full committee and then to the floor." Speaker Shallenburger had made the DDRA one of his priorities during the legislative session and when it eventually made its way out of the legislature. There was only one dissenting vote. It is unlikely that a major piece of legislation would only garner one dissenting vote in today's political climate.

In addition to a purpose, the DDRA also created 27 Community Developmental Disability Organizations that were responsible for the oversight of the community service providers within their region. Some of their duties include single point of entry for services, eligibility determinations, quality assurance, assessments, information and referral, and others. At the implementation of the DDRA, there were 33 CSPs statewide and that number has grown into the hundreds since then. For example there are now 26 licensed and non-licensed affiliates in the TVDS CDDO area alone. The DDRA does have its detractors, though few and far between. It was argued at the time that the CDDOs would create a monopoly on services, but with the growth in the number of CSP's it can be argued that it had the opposite effect. There have been other complaints as well including, the CDDOs have an inherent conflict of interest if they are a CSP, but there has never been any facts provided to substantiate this point.

An interesting footnote to the creation of the DDRA is that one of the rationales for the CDDO format was to protect the system against any future administration that might want to turn over the system to a major insurance company. At that time, Aetna was becoming known as one of the most prominent of the national insurance giants seeking a foothold in the takeover of state-financed insurance programs. There are rumors that the current administration is examining the possibility of revising the DDRA in order to fully integrate the ID/DD system into managed care. I would like to take this opportunity to send a shot across the bow and warn the administration that such a move as watering down the DDRA would have dire consequences upon people with ID/DD. As with the importance of the ADA, the DDRA is one of only a few protections in place guaranteeing choice, independence, productivity, inclusion, access, dignity and respect for people with ID/DD. I can only hope that the Brownback administration makes the right choice and leaves the DDRA in place so that people with disabilities can have the same freedoms that you and I enjoy.