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Disability service providers for Kansans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are confronting an unprecedented crisis. It has now been nearly a month since adult day services providers were mandated to close due to the pandemic.


Many providers wisely began to close earlier, in mid-March, to help slow the spread of the virus in their communities. IDD service providers work to ensure that our communities are more accessible places to live for the people with IDD, so “sheltering-in-place” meant that most of their daily activities would be significantly disrupted and much more challenging.


Our state Medicaid program has options available to implement strategies that would help to keep the worst from happening to the IDD service system. These strategies involve use of retainer payments to allow the IDD system to preserve its capacity. Retainer payments are easy to administer and do not rely on a new allocation of funding.


Many states are already offering retainer payments to affected providers, including every state in our region: Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado.


If we wait, core components of the IDD service system could fail during, or soon after, this pandemic.


Earlier this month, InterHab conducted a survey of Kansas IDD providers — 41% of providers have indicated they do not have, or are unsure whether they will have, the reserves necessary to remain in operation during the next two and a half months. More than three-fourths of these providers have seen a significant decline (of at least 25%) in revenue.


A few IDD providers have lost 100% of their regular funding and completely shut down. Many of the providers that have been most harmed are small but essential Medicaid providers who have few options but to cut staff, salaries or wages.


These important resources for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities are now at risk of being permanently lost due to extraordinary costs and loss of regular revenue. Most providers and their direct service workers serve people with IDD who also have chronic health care concerns, and they have gone to great lengths to implement the preventative measures necessary to protect the health of the people they serve as well as the health of their employees.


We should support the responsible decisions and sacrifices they have made.


We urge that efforts to support the IDD service system in Kansas be prioritized by policymakers during the next few weeks in order to avoid lasting damage to this vital provider network.


Their support and leadership are needed to help us do what our neighboring states have already begun to do to implement retainer payments and other strategies that will preserve the IDD service system for the future.


Nick Wood is the associate director of InterHab in Topeka.