Helping Kansans with disabilities to live and work in our community by promoting choices, independence and a better life.
Helping Kansans with disabilities to live and work in our community by promoting choices, independence and a better life.
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The History of KETCH

Since its beginning, KETCH has stood as a leader in the rehabilitation industry, serving more than 30,000 individuals with disabilities. Much has changed since our beginning, but one thing remains the same—our commitment to help people with disabilities live and work in the community.

In 1962, a group of parents of adult children with mental retardation formed the organization now known as KETCH. In an era when institutions were the only option for people with disabilities, these parents believed that their adult children were capable of more. They opened the “ Wichita Training Center for the Retarded,” a workshop to serve nine men. Here, they hoped to train and prepare their sons for jobs in the community. The program’s success led to a second center for women the following year. Unfortunately, both centers were under-funded and faced a bleak future.

The Kansas Elks Association adopted the center as its major philanthropic project in 1964 and took over the operations. The center was renamed the Kansas Elks Training Center for the Retarded. By early 1966, the first nine enrollees were placed in community jobs, and later that year, private housing was made available. By 1975, services were extended to persons with a variety of disabilities. The center’s name was changed to the Kansas Elks Training Center for the Handicapped, Inc. (KETCH).

In the 1980’s KETCH grew to become one of the largest community service providers in Kansas. KETCH expanded the provision of job placement services to all 105 Kansas counties in partnership with Kansas Rehabilitation Services. KETCH began to develop housing for persons with disabilities in Wichita which included the development of the 10th and 20th Street group homes, Country Acres, and Almond Tree. KETCH started several new manufacturing businesses, including two which remain today – 3-ring notebook binders and air filters.

In the early 1990’s KETCH became active in assisting individuals with severe disabilities move from state institutions back to their home community. Adult Life Skills was developed to better serve persons with more severe disabilities who had chronic medical needs. It also saw the establishment of the PACE program to improve services for adults with Autism. The Developmental Disabilities Reform Act became law in 1995. This Act improved choice for persons served and created community-based development and oversight of services. Families became more in control of their choices, and those choices increased for individuals to live in their home, individualized apartments, or small group homes. More options were developed for those who desired to leave institutional settings in order to experience life in the community. By the end of the 1990’s, Kansas’ oldest institution, Winfield State Hospital, was closed. KETCH’s Wichita-based services grew significantly as an increased use of Medicaid created savings that was directed towards serving persons on the waiting list and the closure of Winfield State Hospital created further savings that was used to eliminate the waiting list. KETCH’s programs doubled in size over this decade, necessitating increasing its facilities. The 201 and 1006 buildings were significantly expanded to add needed space for our day programs.  KETCH’s Community Living program expanded through the use of rental housing. Also significant to our development was the creation of the Community Developmental Disability Organization within Sedgwick County as a result of the Developmental Disability Reform Act. This centralized eligibility, referrals, and funding through Sedgwick County. It also created new requirements for KETCH to serve anyone requesting its services. This resulted in the need to serve persons with challenging behavior, other co-occurring disabilities such as mental illness, and persons from the criminal justice system.

By the 2000’s, KETCH Board of Directors approved a long-term goal to expand KETCH’s property at its downtown location as well as to increase housing options for persons with disabilities in the Wichita community. The board was concerned that overtime KETCH would outgrow its current location and be unable to expand to meet that need. A plan was put into place to acquire adjacent property as it became available. KETCH was able to acquire the property located on Laura street, the parking lot located on Waterman, the warehouse located on Ida, and the administration building also located on Ida. The goal to develop more housing grew out of the need to respond to the limited ability of our consumers to afford quality housing on their limited income. Over this decade, KETCH built three new homes, purchased two existing homes, and began developing new housing through the low income housing tax credit program. In all, KETCH increased its owned housing units from 33 to 86, while still leasing 79 housing units. The 2000’s saw an expansion of day services to better serve the unique needs amongst persons with disabilities. The new programs included the Encore, Adult Life Skills 2, ABLE, and Community Connections programs. KETCH’s statewide employment program, Projects with Industry came to a close during this decade. In the 1970s and 1980s, these services grew due to lack of capacity across the state to assist in the placement on individuals with disabilities in community employment. As local capacity developed in communities and funding became scarce, KETCH chose to close its statewide programs.

As we begin a new decade, KETCH continues in its mission to assist individuals with disabilities to live quality lives of their choice in the community. KETCH is involved in new efforts to revive employment as the preferred outcome of community disability services, continuing to expand upon affordable housing options, and creating small and unique day service options to meet the needs of persons with disabilities in our community.


KETCH, Inc. is a private, not-for profit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.