2020 DSNWK News

Access Receives KDOT Grant


ACCESS Public Transportation is proud to announce that they are the recipient of a $87,166.00 grant from Kansas Public Transportation (KDOT). This grant will be utilized for two projects targeted by ACCESS; facility and equipment upgrades, as well as, a new maintenance vehicle.

These two projects were out of a total of 33 transit projects across the state that have been selected as part of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s new Access, Innovation, and Collaboration program. More than $74 million dollars was awarded by KDOT.

ACCESS provides on demand transportation in Hays and Ellis County and is partially funded by the City of Hays, Ellis County, FHSU and Partnership for a Safer Community.

DSNWK appreciates the support of the United Way of Ellis County and the CARE Council


Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas is proud to announce that The United Way of Ellis County has allocated $23,000 for the Job Placement Follow-along program for 2020. Follow-along services are provided to all individuals who complete DSNWK's Job Placement Program for support to maintain employment and for additional training in the future. Follow-along can intervene before the individual loses his or her employment and reduces the dollars spent on job procurement, training new employees, and unemployment or disability payments.

ACCESS Public Transportation was informed by the CARE Council of Ellis County that they have recommended an allocation to the Hays City Commission for an award of $80,000 for transportation services from the City of Hays Social Service Funds for the 2021 budget. ACCESS provides general public transportation services to the people of Hays and Ellis County.

DSNWK would like to thank the United Way of Ellis County for their continuous support of people with developmental disabilities and to the Care Council for recommending an allocation to the City of Hays for ACCESS general public transportation.

Final pieces in place for new vehicle for PDC


Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas is proud to announce that the final pieces of the puzzle for a replacement vehicle for Prairie Developmental Center in Atwood have been put in place.The Atwood Masons Lodge has agreed to match the $2000 gift offered by the Rawlins County Thrift Shop. This generous gift brought the donations to just $1000 shy of meeting its goal. Then after seeing the article in the Rawlins County Square Deal, Jean Ann Wagner of Phillipsburg called DSNWK and offered to donate the remaining $1000. DSNWK would like to first thank the Rawlins County Thrift Shop for starting this fundraising effort back in September with their matching donation. This was followed by another amazing donation from the Friends of the Disabled which elevated the donations by over $10,000 for the vehicle. In the final stretch, the Masons Lodge and Jean Ann Wagner, joined these others with their financial support which carried this project across the finish line. As reported earlier, PDC lost a Dodge Intrepid due to excessive mileage and complete engine failure. This vehicle was used to support the staff and people served at PDC with going to doctor appointments, community outings, meetings and more. “We continue to be amazed by the generosity and kindness of the Atwood community and beyond,” states Jerry Michaud, DSNWK President. “Having the support of people like these, well, they are among our greatest assets.” DSNWK serves persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the 18 counties of northwest Kansas including the community of Atwood.

Midwest Energy Grant supports DSNWK renovation in Hoxie


Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, was recently announced as the recipient of a $15,000 grant from Midwest Energy, Inc. This matching grant award will be used to support the renovation of the developmental center in Hoxie.The renovation will make the center more functional, accessible, and community focused for the people we serve in Sheridan County and surrounding counties who have developmental disabilities. The renovation will change the floor plan to make room for much needed accessible bathrooms, laundry room, larger classroom space and a larger dining room area. While making these changes, a storm shelter is also planned.“This generous grant award is a dollar-for-dollar matching grant opportunity. We are so grateful to Midwest Energy for supporting us with this grant. We extend our thanks to all who will join us in this matching effort. This project, when complete, will have a practical and personal impact on the people we serve as well as the Hoxie community. Those interested in supporting our efforts, we are a phone call or an email away,” stated Jerry Michaud, DSNWK President. For more information or to contribute to the renovation project, contact Steve Keil at 785-625-5678 or steve_keil@mydsnwk.org.

Care workers in need of pay increase


Paraprofessional Amy Neeley has worked full time as a caregiver at the Reed Center in Hays for two years and four months. She works for the nonprofit Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas Inc., helping adults with intellectual disabilities.The money isn’t great, with base pay starting at $9 an hour. But the clients and staff are like a happy family, Neeley said Thursday morning while helping clients get organized to play Monopoly.Neeley teaches four classes this semester at the Reed Center: Health and Safety, Holidays, American Sign Language and Ancient Cultures.“I am blessed enough that my significant other makes a wage that allows me to work here,” said Neeley, of Hays. “I couldn’t do it on my own.”Many of DSNWK’s 350 employees are the caregivers who work in group homes or provide day help throughout 18 counties in northwest Kansas. Kaitlyn Wagle, of Hays, is a program services coordinator and has worked at DSNWK for nearly eight years.“I’ve had two or three jobs up until recently,” Wagle said, noting that others who work there do the same to make ends meet. “If you’re living on your own, it’s just not possible on this wage. No one is a fan of the wage, but the people who work here want to stay, that’s why they get two jobs. They don’t want to leave here.”It shouldn’t be that way, and won’t be, if Allen Schmidt gets his way.The fate of direct support professionals is a concern to Schmidt, explaining that these are the home health workers, nurse aids and personal care workers seen in nursing homes, assisted living centers, at DSNWK and in other places where the elderly and disabled are cared for.It’s critical to up the level of pay, Schmidt said, “so that you can get them out of poverty.”A retired Army and Medical Service Corps colonel, Schmidt moved back to western Kansas a few years ago to find himself first filling an unexpired Kansas senate seat, then named to the Kansas Board of Regents, and now working at DSNWK, 2703 Hall St., to establish an endowment and planned giving program.As a result, revitalizing rural Kansas and the aging population of western Kansas have become two of his concerns, particularly who will care for the aging, namely direct support workers."There’s a shortage of these workers, which is going to directly impact our parents, and eventually you and me as we get older,” said Schmidt on Saturday, who questioned state legislators at the Legislative Update sponsored by the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce in the Ballroom at Fort Hays State University.“The projection right now, and this is a national prediction, is that there’s going to be 74,000 positions short by 2026 in Kansas,” Schmidt said after the update program. “When you look at the nation, the national level, it’s in the millions. It may be the number one or two employed position in Kansas in 2026. That’s why I’m interested.”As a state senator, he saw the problem firsthand.“There are people aging so fast in these communities, that when I represented, for example, Smith County, that was in my senate district, they were 22% over age 65 at that time,” he said. “Now we’re talking about many of these counties going to 35% and 40% over the age of 65.”“We’ve waited too long to deal with this whole aging population,” Schmidt said. “People in western Kansas are going to move someplace where there’s care, eventually, when they can’t care for themselves because their kids aren’t there.”Schmidt’s mission is to see direct support professionals get credit for their work in the form of academic credit leading to higher wages, a professional license, a degree or even a better occupation.Such a program could be modeled after a paraprofessional-to-teacher program developed at Wichita State University, which gives academic credit to paraprofessionals in the classroom, enabling them to work toward a teaching degree.“I’m thinking of that model for direct support professionals, because if I’m going to be a nurse, occupational therapist, doctor, does it not make sense that when I’m starting into the workforce that I’d do work like this?” Schmidt asks. “Why don’t I get academic credit for that? That’s where higher education is going, applied learning, learning in the workplace.”Schmidt is working on building a task force, meeting with WSU and gauging interest from FHSU President Tisa Mason.But the first step, he said, is to get the position included in the Standard Occupational Classification of the U.S. Department of Labor. For that, he asked Rep. Roger Marshall for help at Saturday’s session.“The first thing we need to do is understand why direct support professionals don’t have a category in the Labor Department,” Schmidt said. “We call them direct support professionals, but until they get a labor code, it’s going to be hard to do all the technical things, like develop the curriculum and professionalize them.”Direct support workers don’t make a living wage as it is now, said DSNWK executive director Jerry Michaud, also at the Legislative Update. That’s despite the fact they get training and certification to do their jobs.“They’ve got skills, they are required skills to do that well,” Michaud said. “If it’s professional and it’s trained, then it should be compensated beyond what it is today.”Low pay means people leave for more money, Michaud said. As of Dec. 31, he had 25 open positions at DSNWK throughout the 18 counties. Losing staff affects the clients, he said.“Say I’m the person that needs support, and I’ve got a relationship with you on the staff, and you leave,” Michaud said. “Any transition and turnover as it relates to the individual served is a pretty big deal.”On Thursday at the Reed Center, Wagle handed the Monopoly dice to DSNWK client Michael Karlin, who threw doubles, then high-fived Wagle with a big hoot and holler.Wagle and Neeley helped him count out eight spaces on the board and move his ship token to Chance.“They have a lot of come-and-go in their lives,” said Neeley, nodding to Karlin, David Werth and Jimmy Tucker, sitting at the table around the Monopoly board.“It’s so hard because these guys have so many people come and go out of their lives,” Neeley said.“It can cause trust issues,” Wagle said. “They can develop some anger, aggression, depression.”“It’s like any family,” Neeley added. “You bond, there’s no way around it, and these guys are like anyone else, when they lose someone special.”

Beach Family Foundation Grant benefits DSNWK


The Beach Family Foundation, Derby, has awarded Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas (DSNWK) a $21,150 grant. This will allow DSNWK to begin the multi-step process of installing access control technology systems within 10 of 16 residential homes in Hays, Russell, Victoria, Atwood, Hill City, and Norton.

The first phase of this project will consist of installing magnetic locks and keypads on the main doors within each home. DSNWK has previously installed these keyless locks in two residential homes where there is a higher risk of elopement. Installing this infrastructure hardware will allow the organization to eventually achieve the overall goal of electronic keyless access control into all homes and office buildings. The organization has made this goal a priority in order to promote safety and ease of access by those persons who receive support in these settings and those staff who help them each day.

DSNWK would like to thank the Beach Family Foundation for their generosity and support which helps DSNWK improve the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in northwest Kansas.

Community Service Tax Credit program a boost to DSNWK capital campaign effort


Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas (DSNWK) is proud to announce that all awarded Community Service Tax Credits have been claimed.

In 2018, DSNWK was awarded a $250,000 grant in Community Service Tax Credits at the 50-percent rate through the Kansas Department of Commerce. The tax credits were available to donors on a first come, first served basis, raising a total of $500,000.

The ability to offer tax credits to donors was very beneficial to DSNWK’s $5 million Stronger Forever Together capital campaign goal which will help support DSNWK’s programs serving persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“We are grateful to our many donors who took advantage of these community service tax credits and supported our capital campaign,” said Jerry Michaud, President/CEO of DSNWK. “These donations will allow for much needed facility upgrades and repairs, renovations and accessibility improvements, which are outside of normal funding streams.

For more information about DSNWK’s Stronger Forever Together Capital Campaign, visit www.dsnwk.org and click on the Stronger Forever Together campaign logo.

DSNWK is a 501(c)3 nonprofit serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 50 years from the counties of Cheyenne, Decatur, Ellis, Gove, Graham, Logan, Norton, Osborne, Phillips, Rawlins, Rooks, Russell, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Thomas, Trego and Wallace.