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Highlights of DRW 2008 Advocacy Plans

Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) advocates on behalf of adults and children with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and a variety of physical, sensory and other disabilities. DRW has offices in Madison, Milwaukee, and Rice Lake. Our work is organized around four teams: Community and Institutions, Schools and Civil Rights, Benefits, and Administrative. Each of the teams is involved in activity which benefits all disability populations. DRW’s annual plans are structured around the DRW Ends Policies developed by the DRW Board of Directors.

Community & Institutions

  1. Advocating for people to live in the most integrated setting
    • Assist in discharge planning for people in institutions
    • Promote diversions to prevent institution admissions
    • Play an active role in institution closings and downsizings
    • Advocate for less restrictive residential placements
  2. Promoting Quality Community Services
    • Assist people on waiting lists
    • Advocate for seamless transitions to the adult service system
    • Advocate for enrollees in Family Care, Partnership, and SSI Managed Care Programs
    • Promote recovery based mental health services
    • Work with local sexual assault and domestic violence programs to help them become more disability friendly
    • Advocate for increased funding for community based services for adults and children
    • Monitor implementation of the CCS (Coordinated Community Services) program and the new Medicaid waiver for adults with mental illness
    • Play an active role in the regional planning and implementation of Family Care
    • Advocate for people with mental illness in substandard housing (with special emphasis on Milwaukee County)
    • Challenge age disparities in the delivery of mental health services to older people in Milwaukee County
  3. Confronting Abuse and Neglect
    • Investigate reported instances of abuse and neglect (especially when state officials have failed to conduct an adequate investigation), including wrongful deaths
    • Promote policy changes to reduce the use of seclusion and restraints, and the incidence of other abuses
  4. Ensuring statewideness
    • Increase DRW’s profile and level of advocacy activity with veterans
  5. Strengthening the consumer movement
    • Continue a variety of peer and self advocacy training
  6. Advocating for people with disabilities in the criminal justice/correctional system
    • Advocate for appropriate treatment, services, and accommodations
    • Promote diversion programs
    • Challenge disciplinary programs which do not acknowledge behaviors that are a manifestation of a person’s disability
    • Target “special managed units” at Taycheedah
    • Investigate prolonged use of segregation in juvenile units at Mendota and Southern Oaks
    • Focus on health care quality in selected county jails


  1. Confronting Abuse and Neglect
    • Investigate individual reports of abuse and neglect
    • Continue efforts to pass new legislation re use of seclusion and restraint in schools
  2. Ensuring the right to a free and appropriate education
    • Challenge inappropriate expulsions and suspensions
    • Provide advocacy and training to disrupt the “school to jail pipeline”
    • Oppose the inappropriate use of day treatment as a school placement
    • Promote appropriate transition planning, with a focus on integrated employment
  3. Advocating for children with disabilities to be educated in the same schools and classrooms as other children of the same age
    • Provide consultation and training on this issue
    • Oppose growth in segregated schools
  4. Continue major reform efforts in Milwaukee Public School System
    • Move onto next steps in class action litigation
  5. Continue effects to increase state and federal funding for special education
    • Work within Survival Coalition and the Quality Education Coalition on a variety of strategies

Civil Rights

  1. Advocating for the right to supports necessary to participate in community life
    • Advocate for accessible, affordable transportation
    • Advocate for more accessible and affordable housing options
    • Advocate for reduced use of selected workshops and sub minimum wage certificates
    • Promote more emphasis on integrated employment programs in the Family Care and Partnership Programs
  2. Overcoming accessibility barriers
    • Challenge employment discrimination and advocate for reasonable accommodations in the workplace
    • Challenge housing discrimination in individual cases and through training and technical assistance to a variety of agencies
    • Play an active role in Milwaukee and statewide fair housing coalitions
    • Oppose building codes, zoning restrictions, or new legislation that would impede consumer choice in where to live
    • Engage in a variety of activities to promote the voting rights of people with disabilities
    • Promote increased availability of service animals, interpreters, testing accommodations

Public Benefits

  1. Advocating the rights of persons with disabilities to benefits for which they are eligible
    • Provide legal backup services to existing Disability Benefit Specialists (DBSs) in counties which have Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs)
    • Expand legal backup services to new DBSs in ADRCs beginning operations in 2008
    • Provide direct representation in benefits-related administrative hearings (in selected cases in DBS counties)
  2. Providing high quality training on benefits issues to various audiences
    • Conduct Medicare Part D training in various locales around the state
    • In collaboration with Employment Resources, Inc., provide training on a variety of benefits issues to DBSs, Employment Benefits Counselors and others

DRW Administration

  1. Strengthen overall DRW administrative infrastructure
    • Review and revise personnel policies in light of DRW expansion (DRW will hit the 50 employee mark in 2008)
    • Add part-time Administrative/Intake position in Rice Lake office
  2. Enhance DRW’s use of Information Technology
    • Complete major overhaul of DRW website
    • Complete implementation of new computerized case management system
  3. Ensure statewideness of DRW’s advocacy work
    • Continue to compile, analyze and present data to DRW staff re the geographical pattern of DRW’s information and referral, individual advocacy and training activities
  4. Lead DRW’s development activity
    • Continue to support/expand DRW membership, including the generation of various print and electronic updates
    • Plan and implement DRW’s 30th Anniversary event (May 31, 2008)

Cultural Competency

  1. Increase diversity and cultural competency in DRW’s individual advocacy work
    • Continue to give priority to individual advocacy requests involving racial discrimination and/or culturally insensitive practices
    • Continue contracts with multiple tribes to provide special education advocacy for Native American students with disabilities
    • Implement new contract with Great Lakes Intertribal Council to provide special education advocacy to additional tribes
    • Increase focus on immigration issues in DRW’s benefits related advocacy
    • Increase minority outreach activity in SE Wisconsin
  2. Address specific cultural issues in DRW’s systems advocacy efforts
    • Monitor DHFS and managed care organizations’ efforts to address cultural barriers to enrollment and appropriate service delivery in all managed care programs
    • Increase the dialogue with DHFS and Native American organizations regarding the possible development of Native American ADRCs and Disability Benefits Specialists
  3. Strengthen organizational and coalition relationships
    • Continue to build on our already growing relationship with the Deaf Community and Deaf organizations
    • Continue to support and participate in the Native American Disability Coalition in NW Wisconsin
    • Develop new strategies to work with Hmong service providers
    • Attempt to strengthen DRW ties to the Somali population in NW Wisconsin
  4. Enhance cultural competency in DRW’s training and technical assistance
    • Team up with FACETS and UNIDOS to provide bilingual training on special education and domestic violence and sexual assault issues
    • Add new focus on Latina and Native American Women in DRW’s Violence Against Women with Disabilities Program
    • Explore ongoing parent/staff training possibility with a tribal school
  5. Make DRW materials accessible to more racial/ethnic minority populations
    • Increase variety and number of DRW materials translated into Spanish and Hmong
    • Distribute DRW’s recently developed Fair Housing Guide in Hmong and Spanish translations
  6. Increase the diversity of DRW Staff
    • Intensify minority recruitment for DRW graduate students and interns