McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Freedom to work

  • Three times a week, 19-year-old Adam Scheffler travels 46 minutes from Peabody to McPherson to work. He works in a group at MCDS to repackage products, such as zip ties, and make plastic couplings for basements.
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  • Three times a week, 19-year-old Adam Scheffler travels 46 minutes from Peabody to McPherson to work. He works in a group at MCDS to repackage products, such as zip ties, and make plastic couplings for basements.
    Scheffler has Asperger’s and ADHD, which makes it hard for him to concentrate and handle social situations. He enjoys western movies, country music and sports, and he hopes one day to move out of his parents’ house and live on his own.
    “I’d have more freedom,” Scheffler said. “I’d stay up later and move closer to McPherson County.”
    Without disability services, this goal would be a long shot for people like Scheffler who have developmental disabilities. Many of the people who qualify for disability services are living on Social Security and would have a hard time staying afloat financially without assistance.
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    Qualifying individuals can receive help through organizations like MCDS that receive state and federal funding to help people with disabilities live as independently as possible.
    However, the program hasn’t seen a significant funding increase in several years. This means many people who qualify are stuck on a waiting list of 4,000 to 6,000 names in Kansas. Those who do receive funding often find the help they get isn’t enough to cover everything they need.
    “It’s really difficult,” said Doug Wisby, president and CEO of MCDS. “It’s really hard on people that we serve to live independently in the community because a dollar just doesn’t go that far.”
    Scheffler is currently getting help through his local high school. Once he graduates, he’ll be without aid until he makes it through the waiting list, a process that can take five years or longer.
    During that time, he’ll either have to pay for MCDS’s services himself or live on his own. While the exact cost of services depends on the person, Wisby said MCDS is reimbursed between $44 and $160 per day, and that amount doesn’t cover the full cost of services.
    “You can do the math from there day by day, week by week, year by year,” Wisby said.
    Either way, Scheffler said moving out of his parents’ house would be more difficult.
    Once he gets off the wait list, there’s no guarantee he’ll get all the assistance he needs. Disability assistance pays a certain amount depending on the level of assistance needed, but Wisby said those amounts haven’t increased for several years, even though the costs of those needs have gone up.
    Services include residential support, which helps clients with tasks such as cleaning and shopping, and day support, which helps clients find work or vocational training.
    Page 2 of 2 - There also are case managers who work with clients individually with things they need help with. Scheffler’s case worker has helped him and his family get Social Security funds.
    Because the program is underfunded, Wisby said people often don’t get all the services they need.
    “I might need assistance for both day and residential, but right now I only get day,” Wisby said.
    Part of day support services is helping people with disabilities find work. Christine Gafford, chief operating officer at MCDS, said the work people get through MCDS helps them feel like part of the community.
    “People come here each day and they work,” Gafford said. “They get paid, they pay taxes, it’s meaningful employment.”
    Wisby said a lot of people take work for granted, and it’s something people with disabilities want to do.
    “Work is probably the thing we spend more time doing in our lives than anything else,” Wisby said. “People with disabilities aren’t any different. They want a work opportunity. They want to pay their way. That’s important stuff.”
    Without financial help, people like Scheffler would have difficulty commuting to work, limiting their options.
    “It’s really a bad cocktail of a lot of things for clients that have developmental disabilities in the state and in the country,” Wisby said.
    Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.
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