Ray Dalton leaving SRS

0 | Agencies, SRS, Legislature, Mental Health

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KHI News Service

Ray Dalton, deputy secretary of disability and behavioral health services at SRS, listens to testimony about the effects of budget cuts on the state hospitals for the mentally ill. Behind him is Lois Weeks, SRS director of financial management.

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— Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Deputy Secretary Ray Dalton has announced that he will leave the agency later this month.

Dalton, 57, has overseen the department’s services for people with disabilities since 1997.

Prior to his tenure at SRS, Dalton served 22 years in the U.S. Army, working in health care administration in the United States, Malaysia and Korea.

Dalton has told colleagues he plans to take some time off and, perhaps, pursue other opportunities in health care administration.

“Ray has certainly been an ally,” said Rick Cagan, executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “He’s always been responsive to our issues, though I have to say he’s been in a tough spot the last few years with resources being stretched so thin. Demand for services is up while supply, unfortunately, is down.

“We feel like we’re at a point — beyond the point, actually — of crisis, right now,” he said. “But we’re sorry to see Ray go.”

Dalton’s duties include oversight of services for people with developmental disabilities in both community and state-hospital settings.

In recent years, advocates have urged legislators to close one or both of the state hospitals for the developmentally disabled — Kansas Neurological Institute and Parsons State Hospital — and use the savings to expand community-based services.

Earlier this year, Gov. Sam Brownback proposed closing KNI. Legislators, however, voted to keep the Topeka-based hospital open.

Dalton often found himself defending both the governor’s call for closing KNI and the need for additional services in the community.

“I’ll say this about Ray, he’s familiar with the hospitals and with the successes of home- and community-based services, but he’s never been an easy sell,” said Tom Laing, executive director at Interhab, an association representing community-based programs for people with developmental disabilities.

“He’s always been a fair-minded person and very accessible to alternative perspectives. We’ve always felt he was sincerely interested in solving problems.”

Plans call for Dalton being succeeded by his special assistant, Pedro C. Moreno, founder and past president of Fathers and Daughters Alliance, an international organization dedicated to helping fathers ensure equal educational opportunities for their school-age daughters. The Alliance is no longer operational.

Moreno also has held positions at the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities in Florida, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the drug policy office at the White House, Prison Fellowship International, and the Rutherford Institute.

While at the Rutherford Institute, Moreno led the organization’s efforts to defend human rights and religious freedom in foreign countries. He compiled and edited the institute’s Handbook on Religious Liberty Around the World.

Moreno has been at SRS since February.