Kansas Could Face Fed Lawsuit Over Alleged Disabled Discrimination

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OLATHE, Kan. -- People with disabilities in Kansas say that they are spending too long on waiting lists in hopes of someday getting state services that are actually mandated under federal law, and now the federal government could be close to taking action against the state.

On Wednesday, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice met with officials with Kansas Social and Rehabilitative Services, a meeting that advocates for the disabled say could lead to the DOJ to take action against the state for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jeanne Donovan says that her 22-year-old daughter, Bridget, who is disabled, has been on a waiting list for state day programs and a group home since she aged-out of the school system last spring.

"Waiting and waiting and waiting and getting bored and losing skills," said Donovan. She says that her daughter could be left on a waiting list for at least six years unless lawmakers vote to boost funding.

"They are not voting to fund the waiting list, they vote on other things but not these kids," said Donovan. "So (the kids are) going into a black hole after they graduate."

Maury Thompson with Johnson County Developmental Supports says that the federal government is investigating whether 17 states, including Kansas, are failing to comply with federal law.

"Many states like Kansas have a growing waiting list, and the Department of Justice is taking an interest in states failure to remove people from the lists in a timely fashion," said Thompson. He says that the waiting list in Kansas has ballooned to 5,000 people, and some years not a single person in the state gets off the waiting list due to a lack of funding.

Thompson says that could lead to a lawsuit against the state.

"It would be my hope this could be resolved without litigation," he said.

A spokesperson for the state called Wednesday's meeting with the Department of Justice as cordial, and that they discussed issues that need to be worked out. The DOJ declined to comment on the Kansas investigation, but is already involved with 25 lawsuits alleging discrimination against the disabled in 17 states.

In the meantime, people like Jeanne Donovan and her daughter Bridget just keep waiting.

"We've done our part at home, and the schools have done their part, now it's time for the people who were elected to do theirs," said Donovan.

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