Thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families across the state of Wisconsin have been voicing their choice in response to the federal government’s plan to redefine the settings and services for people with disabilities in a five year transition plan beginning 2015. This plan was very concerning for those wanting to preserve the full array of employment and home choices for their loved ones with significant disabilities that presently exist in the state of Wisconsin. Examples of such service choices include integrated community employment, supported employment, community-based pre-vocational training, community-based day services, as well as, facility-based services.
Beginning in August 2014, grassroots efforts were organized by A TEAM Wisconsin and other advocates from many community rehabilitation programs around the state, in response to Wisconsin Department of Health Services public comment invitation for feedback, and advisement on how they plan to follow the federal government’s Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) rules. Family organizers wanted to ensure that people with disabilities that may be affected by the federal changes, were aware of the proposal and advised on how to exercise their rights to comment on it.
Edna Foelker, mother of two individuals with disabilities, was one of many parents who shared real concern for the federal plan, “Please advocate for the rights of ALL disabled individuals! In a perfect world, all people who have a disability or not, should be able to CHOOSE the employment and life style that fits them. Not one size fits all. You must speak for all people, and give them a VOICE and a CHOICE. Not everyone wants to manage employment in the main stream. Our son and daughter needed a safe yet stimulating environment that also would give them a sense of pride, accomplishment and worth. They needed to feel they were “regular” workers and not appear “different”. I will always be thankful for the choice of our local community rehabilitation program. These valuable services must continue to be a choice in this state.”
After four months of persistent advocacy actions, the families received a promising effort from Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades to the Center for Medicaid Services Honorable Marilyn Tavenner. In a letter dated December 17, 2014, Secretary Rhoads confirmed that Wisconsin will continue to recognize the vital services sheltered workshops provide for individuals and families who depend on them as part of Wisconsin’s full array of choices for employment and independence.
Letter from Secretary Kitty Rhoades
About A TEAM-Wisconsin:
Since founding in October 2011, A TEAM Wisconsin has expanded to 9 active chapters from around the state, including, Southeastern Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley, Crawford County, Central Wisconsin, South Central Wisconsin, Washington County, Oshkosh, Neenah, Lacrosse and Chilton. In addition, there are advocacy groups throughout the state that share the same mission; to protect the full array of service choices for individuals with significant disabilities.
The A TEAM has become a leader in the grassroots movement across Wisconsin and notable national attention because it was founded by parents and families, who are not constrained by formal expectations of state advocacy groups, government programs, or otherwise. Instead, it is led and expanded organically through the efforts of individuals with disabilities and their loved ones. The mission is simple; protect and sustain all choices that promote independence. United for choice!