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DRW Applauds Family Care Expansion

Disability Rights Wisconsin welcomes Governor Walker’s announcement that the Family Care and IRIS programs will expand into seven additional counties in northeastern Wisconsin. People with disabilities and aging advocates gathered in Green Bay to applaud the Governor’s office and legislators from both parties for their recent work to bring Family Care and IRIS to the region.

The wait is over for residents in seven of the fifteen counties not participating in Family Care — Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Shawano, Oconto, Menomonee and Marinette. These counties have more than 900 people who have been waiting years for state and county funded long-term support services that allow them to receive assistance in their own homes, rather than in a nursing home.

The introduction of Family Care and IRIS will eliminate these waiting lists, furthering Wisconsin’s mandate under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide support to persons with disabilities in the most integrated, least restrictive setting. Disability Rights Wisconsin has long advocated for an equitable system of community supports under the ADA.

“All people with disabilities and elderly citizens deserve to have the same community-based supports regardless of where they live,” stated DRW Managing Attorney Kit Kerschensteiner. “Access to supports that enable people to stay in their homes and communities should be available statewide, not dependent on the county in which a person lives.”

Family Care and IRIS provide people with disabilities and the elderly assistance with daily tasks—like dressing, bathing, meals, household chores and tasks, employment support, transportation — and management of chronic health conditions. The goals of these programs are to give individuals better choices about where they live and the types of services they receive in order to meet their goals, improve access and quality of care, and create a cost-effective system.

In the 57 counties that are currently covered by Family Care, residents with disabilities and older adults can access supports in their homes and communities when they need them, which keeps them out of costly nursing homes. The story is much different for residents in the remaining fifteen counties still waiting for Family Care and IRIS. People can wait years – sometimes a decade or longer – for help.

A recent report by the Department of Health Services found that expansion of Family Care to these seven counties could also reduce the burden on Wisconsin taxpayers by saving the state $34.7 million over the next ten years.

DRW will continue to advocate for all persons with disabilities in Wisconsin to receive the most appropriate and least restrictive supports for their daily life, work, education, and participation in the community. DRW applauds the Governor, legislators, and the Department of Health Services for moving toward a more equitable system of long term support in Wisconsin.