- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Senate has passed a bill intended to define and streamline the process for a shared living program for adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle (https://bit.ly/22oPaq0 ) reports that the bill passed by a vote of 31-5 after hours of debate Thursday. Before the bill was passed, a provision was added that would require the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to seek legislative approval before privatizing facilities.

The agency says the bill would enable it to re-establish a shared living program that allows adults with developmental disabilities or other disorders to be placed with a care provider. The agency temporarily suspended the program in October.

The bill sparked a heated debate after Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, who was carrying the bill, struggled to tell his colleagues what the bill would actually do and had to repeatedly consult with an agency official who was present in the chamber to provide answers.

“This allows the process to be clearly defined and streamlined,” O’Donnell told lawmakers.

Some lawmakers said the bill would enable the agency to privatize facilities and avoid legislative oversight.

Agency spokeswoman Angela De Rocha said lawmakers were misunderstanding the bill. She said it was meant to allow the agency to license subcontractors for the program. She said the moratorium went into effect in the first place because the subcontractors weren’t licensed by the agency.

Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, proposed the amendment to the bill, which eased the minds of lawmaker with concerns and allowed the bill to pass.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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