The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee last night voted on disability priorities in the Department of Health Services (DHS) section of the state budget that takes some first steps toward addressing the most pressing needs of the disability community: adequate supports to live in their homes and communities and freedom from abuse and neglect. Another critical issue– mental health supports–were mostly left out of the budget, and it is Survival Coalition’s hope that mental health and other important initiatives can move as stand-alone bills in the months ahead.
“The vote demonstrates recognition of concerns advocates have been expressing for decades and potentially a start to more re-investments that ensure Wisconsinites of all ages and abilities have access to the right care, at the right time and in the place, they most often prefer – in their own home,” said Patti Becker, Survival Coalition co-chair.
Among actions Joint Finance took:
- Continued the 5% increase for Home and Community Based Services providers that were initially part of federal pandemic response legislation. These increases impact providers in Family Care, IRIS, and Children’s Long Term Support Services (CLTS) waivers.
- Increases of 5% for direct care workers in Family Care. However, no increases for IRIS participant-hired workers.
- Increase of 4.3% to the Medical Assistance Personal Care Services
- Requirements that Family Care managed care organizations report publicly amount of care needed (authorized hours) and the amount of care provided by service category and MCO, thus quantifying unmet needs.
“The Legislature’s attention to the direct care crisis through rate increases and better quantifying the state’s needs are important initial investments,” said Beth Swedeen, Survival co-chair. “With average direct care worker wages in the state of $13.53/hr. and fewer than half earning benefits, we have a long way to go in paying the true cost of care.” Read full press release here.