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Most Recent Public Policy

Disability Rights Wisconsin Asks Legislature to Suspend Plans for Family Care/IRIS 2.0

On May 27, 2016 Disability Rights Wisconsin sent a letter to members of the Wisconsin State Legislature asking them to suspend the Department of Health Services’ plans to redesign Wisconsin’s long-term care programs. Family Care and IRIS serve more than 55,000 older adults and people with disabilities. DRW shared significant concerns about proposed changes to IRIS self-direction.

You can read the complete letter here: DRW Letter to the Legislature on Family Care-IRIS 2 0 Decision 5-27-2016.

Disability Rights Wisconsin Makes Recommendations on Implementation on new IRIS 40 Hour Rule

On May 23 Disability Rights Wisconsin sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) making recommendations on how to implement its 40-Hour Health and Safety Assurance Policy in a way that ensures health and safety for people who may have difficulty meeting the new worker limits. You can read DRW’s letter here: DRW Letter to DHS – 40-Hour Health and Safety Assurance Policy

The Department’s policy establishes that IRIS participant hired workers may provide no more than 40 hours of care per week for an IRIS employer. Read more about the Department’s policy here: DHS 40-hour policy. IRIS participants are being asked to sign a form to ensure they are in compliance with this new policy by December of 2016. You can see the form here: 40 Hour Health and Safety Assurance Participant Form. 

National disability advocacy groups have also recently provided guidance to states on how to come into compliance around new federal worker overtime regulations. Read this document from the Bazelon Center: Considerations for developing overtime exceptions.  Disability Rights Wisconsin will continue to monitor implementation of the Wisconsin policy and work with the Department to ensure that individuals continue to receive the care hours required to meet their needs.

Disability Rights Wisconsin Celebrates New Law Protecting Children with Disabilities

Disability Rights Wisconsin joined disability advocates and bi-partisan legislators in a celebration in Green Bay today as Governor Walker signed strong new legislation that will be a model for the nation in protecting children with disabilities from abuse and neglect.

Assembly Bill 667 requires the state to develop a plan for investigating reports of abuse or neglect involving children with disabilities. The bill was introduced by lead-sponsors Representatives Kleefisch-R – Oconomowoc, and Representative Johnson-D – Milwaukee along with Senator Rob Cowles-R – Green Bay. The bill passed with unanimous bi-partisan support.

Available data indicate that children with disabilities are three times more likely to be a victim of abuse compared to children without disabilities. Upon review of child protective services reports and information uncovered by a FOX6 News investigation in Milwaukee, Disability Rights Wisconsin found that since February 2010 at least twelve children with special needs who were involved with the child protective services system have died due to abuse or neglect in Wisconsin. An additional eight suffered an egregious injury.

Click here to read the rest of Disability Rights Wisconsin Celebrates New Law Protecting Children with Disabilities »

Disability Rights Wisconsin Applauds Passage of Landmark Bill Protecting Children with Disabilities

Disability Rights Wisconsin commends the Wisconsin Legislature for passing Assembly Bill 667 last night – enhancing the safety of Wisconsin’s children with disabilities. The bill, passed Tuesday by the Senate and by the Assembly on January 19th, requires the state to develop a plan for investigating reports of abuse or neglect involving children with disabilities, enhancing the work of child protective services at the state and county level. The bill now awaits Governor Walker’s signature.

“Wisconsin should be proud to take this significant step forward in ensuring that children with disabilities, particularly children with communication barriers, have equal access to the child protective services system,” commented Disability Rights Wisconsin Executive Director, Daniel Idzikowski. “This legislation places Wisconsin in a leadership position among the states.”

“Representatives Kleefisch and Johnson and Senator Cowles were essential leaders guiding the passage of this bill with overwhelming bi-partisan support,” noted Lisa Pugh, DRW’s Public Policy Director. “DRW appreciates the opportunity to now work alongside the Department of Children and Families to develop new standards and resources that will help to keep children with disabilities safe.”
Click here to read the rest of Disability Rights Wisconsin Applauds Passage of Landmark Bill Protecting Children with Disabilities »

Disability Organizations Release Report: Seeking Solutions to End Harmful Seclusion & Restraint

A new report issued today by Disability Rights Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Ties, and WI FACETS, shows that Wisconsin children continue to be frequently subjected to controversial seclusion and restraint practices in Wisconsin’s public schools, despite the passage of a law intended to reduce such measures. Families and advocates are speaking out about the harmful emotional and physical consequences of seclusion and restraint on children.

The report, called Seclusion & Restraint in Wisconsin Public School Districts 2013-2014: Miles to Go and available here, is based on open records requests to special education directors statewide, collecting the data they were required to report to their school boards following the 2012 passage of Wisconsin Act 125, which established crucial regulations on public-school use of seclusion and restraint.

Click here to read the rest of Disability Organizations Release Report: Seeking Solutions to End Harmful Seclusion & Restraint »

Disability Rights Wisconsin Weighs in on Child Abuse Investigations Involving Children with Disabilities

The Wisconsin legislature is considering legislation intended to improve the child abuse and neglect investigation process. Recently Disability Rights Wisconsin testified in the Capitol to create awareness of unique concerns for children with disabilities and their parents, as well as parents with disabilities.

Read our testimony here:

Disability Rights WI – SB 324 SB 326 – Child Abuse – 10-22-15

Disability Rights WI – AB 429 AB 431 – Child Abuse – 11-5-15

Disability Rights Wisconsin also commented in a November 12 FOX6 News investigation into alarming trends in Wisconsin involving abuse and neglect. Watch the story here: FOX6 News.

Disability Rights Wisconsin Supports Committee Hearing on Long-Term Care Issues

Disability Rights Wisconsin worked with legislators to organize a November 18 informational hearing in the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care on the development of the new Family Care/IRIS 2.0 long-term care system for older adults and people with disabilities in Wisconsin. The state budget requires that Wisconsin implement a new integrated system including acute and primary care, behavioral health supports and long-term supports (including a new self-directed model) by January 1, 2017. These changes will impact more than 60,000 Wisconsinites who currently use Family Care and IRIS supports.

At the 11-18-15 hearing national experts on long-term care from Washington, DC and Tennessee joined Wisconsin aging and disability advocates to outline questions and make recommendations as Wisconsin develops this new system. Click here to read the rest of Disability Rights Wisconsin Supports Committee Hearing on Long-Term Care Issues »

August 10 ABLE Law Celebration in Green Bay

On Monday, August 10 Disability Rights Wisconsin celebrated passage of Wisconsin’s Achieving a Better Life Experience – ABLE Law with families and people with disabilities in Green Bay.

Read our press release:  Press Release – Area Families Celebrate New Law that will Change Lives – ABLE Law – Green Bay August 10.

Read the ABLE Law FAQ: ABLE Accounts FAQ.

Read testimony from a parent: Robbin Thomas Lyons ABLE Testimony.

Read testimony from a person with a disability: ABLE LAW STATEMENT BY DAVID PINNO.

Join Us to Celebrate Wisconsin’s ABLE Creation!

Representative John Macco (R – Ledgeview), invites you to an event to celebrate a new era for people with disabilities and their families in Wisconsin.

The signing of Wisconsin’s 2015-17 budget means families and individuals with disabilities will for the first time be able to start saving for the future with new ABLE Act Accounts. It is time to celebrate!

When: 10:00 am on Monday, August 10th, 2015

Where: Options for Independent Living
555 Country Club Road, Green Bay, Wisconsin

What: A Celebration with Families and People with Disabilities who have New Options for Independence through ABLE Act Accounts

Please RSVP:
Contact Lisa Pugh with Disability Rights Wisconsin: or Ben Joniaux, if you plan to attend.

What is an ABLE Account?
The purpose of an ABLE Account is to encourage and assist individuals with disabilities and their families to save funds to maintain health, increase independence, and improve quality of life. ABLE stands for “Achieving a Better Life Experience.” An ABLE Account will allow individuals with qualified disabilities and their families across Wisconsin to put away their own funding for specified items, such as housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses and other needs while not jeopardizing the person’s eligibility for Medicaid and other programs that provide essential supports that are not otherwise available. Wisconsin’s ABLE Act provision recognizes the extra and significant costs of living with a disability and will support people to increase their independence.

Print and share this event invitation: Join Us to Celebrate Wisconsin’s ABLE Act Accounts.

Read more about Disability Rights Wisconsin’s Support for the ABLE Act in Wisconsin: Disability Rights WI Supports ABLE Act Provision.

For more details about the accounts: ABLE Accounts FAQ.

Advocates Await Assurance that IRIS will be Replicated in Wisconsin’s New Managed Care System

On June 30 the Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued this memo outlining how the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee budget motion does not address key parts of the current IRIS program including:

  • Maintaining the policy that anyone who is eligible for Family Care is eligible for self direction.
  • Access to the ongoing support of an IRIS Consultant to implement a self-direction plan.
  • The calculation of an Individual Budget based on an objective measures of a person’s functioning.
  • The requirement that all eligible individuals be provided information on the self direction option.

When the original budget motion passed on May 27 legislators had indicated that although IRIS was being folded into Family Care as a self-direction option that it would be essentially identical to the current IRIS program.

Advocates will continue to work with the Legislature to secure fixes to the budget motion to maintain IRIS.