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Public weighs in on Family Care changes

Public weighs in on Family Care changes

MADISON, Wis. - Margaret Galle is familiar with the Family Care and IRIS programs. Her 38-year-old son is living with Down syndrome, as well as her younger sister.

"There could be some good coming out of this, but I'm still very concerned," Galle said.

That concern brought her to the Alliant Energy Center on Monday evening, where state Department of Human Services representatives explained the new plan for Family Care and IRIS.

Family Care provides long-term care to the elderly and those with disabilities. Last year, advocates protested when the governor pushed to run the program statewide instead of regionally. The proposal would have also eliminated IRIS, which gives participants the freedom to manage their own care. The Joint Finance Committee rejected that part of the request.

William Hanna, with DHS, explained that the latest plan reinstates the individualization components of IRIS, while combining it with Family Care. The goal, Hanna said, is more integration between long-term care and other medical needs the participants may have rather than having people go through multiple programs and organizations.

"Right now, if you're enrolled in the program, you get your long-term care services through one organization or through self-direction, you get your medical services or your behavioral health services through another organization," Hanna said. "The goal is to pull that all together to make sure that all of the systems are working for the same outcomes for the member."

Hanna and other DHS staff heard concerns and questions about the concept letter for Family Care/IRIS 2.0, the step before taking the new plan back to the Joint Finance Committee.

Hanna said the department expanded the program to the entire state, claiming it will take care of wait lists for long-term services.

That said, Hanna admits the current plan is broad because the DHS can't get down to details until the legislature weighs in.

"We just don't have the details at this time," Hanna said. "I think the important thing is that we stick to the principles that we've outlined and we've captured all of the principles that people think are important and that we stick to them as we put the details to them."

Advocates like Kristin Kreschensteiner aren't satisfied with the vague priorities. She's worried when it gets down to the details, the people who the plan affects most will be left out of the final decisions.

"For people who depend on getting to work, getting out into the community, its personal care, very personal, personal care with dressing and bathing," Kreschensteiner said. "These are very very important things to just be left to just the vagaries of 'We'll let you know later.'"

Kreschensteiner appreciates the fact that the concept paper was out in advance and said integrated care can be a good thing. That said, she has concerns about more broadly regionalizing administration and any other specifics that could be decided without input.

"We can't lose what we have now and the quality that we have now. We need to improve on it," Kreschensteiner said.

The DHS has to submit the final concept letter to the Joint Finance Committee by the end of the month. The department then has to pursue a waiver from the federal government, which will involve more public input sessions.

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