Blowing up ADD aging without a plan

The Bluegrass Area Development District building 699 Perimeter Drive in Lexington.
The Bluegrass Area Development District building 699 Perimeter Drive in Lexington. Herald-Leader

The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin has gotten very good at blowing up state government-as-it-has-been but the learning curve on picking up the pieces after the explosion is way too slow.

The state’s plan to cut off federal funds the Bluegrass Area Development District administers for aging and independent living services is a case in point.

There is every reason to keep a wary eye trained on the Bluegrass ADD. Both its top management and the regional elected officials who oversee it have done little to inspire confidence. Truculent and defensive, they have chosen to spend a ton of money on self-promotion and lawyers rather than settling disputes with their funding source over allegedly misspent funds.

But none of that changes the fact that, at least as far as the aging and independent living services are concerned, the people depending on the services are most likely to feel the sting from a slap aimed at the Bluegrass ADD.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services provided less than two weeks’ notice of this abrupt change to the 5,500 people affected in 17 Central Kentucky counties. Remarkably, it also said that services would not be affected.

This was hardly the impression of a few dozen of the affected people who gathered at the ADD’s offices last week.

Some are parents who rely on workers paid through the independent living program to help care for profoundly disabled children at home. They told stories of calling the number in a letter from the cabinet only to either remain on hold for hours or be transferred multiple times, or both. None reported they received satisfactory information.

The Bluegrass ADD has understandably been a focus of this administration, although until last month the apparent emphasis was on the federal workforce money that flows through the ADD.

There is a long history behind that action, going back well before the 2014 examination by the state auditor that revealed a host of serious problems and very lax oversight.

It continued through this year when at state insistence the ADD bid out the workforce services to be performed and — surprise! — chose itself as the best bidder. The state insisted the ADD rebid the contract but the ADD refused to do so.

But, at least in public view, there has been little to signal what’s behind the state’s move on the ADD’s aging and independent living programs.

The administration keeps making noise about the ADD’s management and fiscal integrity regarding these programs but has not offered any facts to support its case.

Certainly Bevin was elected to be a disruptive force in state government. It’s an appealing pitch in a state so mired in corruption and poverty. Certainly, voters think, anything’s got to be better.

But until the Bevin administration learns how to pick up the pieces and make life better for those whom government has failed, disruption alone will just cause more chaos, and pain.