SRS drops support for training program

0 | KU Medical Center, SRS, Workforce

— The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has dropped its participation in a web-based training program for those who work with the developmentally disabled.

The decision, effective Wednesday, is expected to save the department about $200,000.

“We’re looking to see if there’s a way to maybe form a coalition to purchase the service without SRS’ support,” said Kathy Olson, who administers the College of Direct Support program on behalf of the University of Kansas Life Span Institute.

Though based in Lawrence, the institute occupies two buildings on the campus of Parsons State Hospital, one of two state-run institutions for people with severe developmental disabilities. The other state facility is Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka.

Olson, whose office is in Parsons, said she first learned of the SRS decision on Friday afternoon.

SRS officials did not respond to a KHI News Service e-mail Monday seeking comment on the decision.

Agency officials over the past several weeks have taken or announced several steps intended to reduce SRS spending. The Legislature this past session ordered SRS to make about $21.5 million in spending cuts. Among other things, SRS officials have announced they will close a number of local or regional offices.

Developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, the College of Direct Support training program offers a web-based curriculum for people such as family members, teachers, attendants and day program employees who care for people with developmental disabilities.

“There are well over 150 lessons,” included in the training package, Olson said. “It’s multimedia, it’s updated, it’s all evidence based, it’s accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It provides training toward a national standard for excellence.”

In Kansas, she said, 138 service providers – more than one-third of all providers, large and small – were using the curriculum in their staff training.

“We’ve been very satisfied with it,” said Carolee Miner, executive director at OCCK, a Salina-based program for people with developmental disabilities.

The program, however, isn't free. In Kansas, much of the program's costs were covered by SRS' $200,000 contract with the Life Span Institute.

Olson served as the program's liaison to the College of Direct Support.

College of Direct Support National Director Bill Tapp said 33 states subscribe to the website. Kansas, he said, has been the first state to drop out.

“At any given time in any given month there are 280,000 people taking the training,” Tapp said. “Kansas, I’d say, has been using it for four or five years.”

Tapp said he would help the KU institute search for alternate funding.

“No one called us ahead of time and said ‘What can we do?” he said. “The first we found out about this was Friday afternoon – the same time everybody else found out about it. But this isn’t about money. It’s about putting together a trained work force to work with an at-risk population.

“If you’re going to have a trained work force, there has to be training,” Tapp said. “And if you’re going to have training, you have to have a curriculum. That’s what we do.”