Crawford County Board opposes dismantling ADRC

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Aging and Disability Resource Center in Crawford County, and all ADRCs throughout the state are threatened, and in fact could be gutted or just plain done away with if a proposal in Governor Scott Walker’s State Biennial Budget is approved. 

That is why the Crawford County Board unanimously passed a resolution at its April meeting requesting that the State Legislature oppose the privatization of ADRC functions. In fact, to date 35 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have passed resolutions opposing the governor’s proposal and 19 more counties are scheduled to vote on the matter in May. 

More than half of the resolutions passed have also included opposition to the proposed changes to eliminate the Include, Respect I Self-Direct (IRIS) Program and changing the Family Care program by replacing them with statewide for-profit health insurance companies (using a no-bid process).

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) are the one-stop source of information, referral, benefits counseling and eligibility determination for anyone in Wisconsin with questions about long term care.

Family Care is the Medicaid managed care program that is the primary source of long term care for low-income elders and adults with physical or developmental disabilities in Wisconsin. 

“Why dismantle a working system,” said Crawford County ADRC Director Jeanne Christie. “Our motto is ‘Keep our care local.’” Christie pointed out that the Crawford County ADRC is non-profit and, therefore, unbiased in providing its services. She noted that the large majority of services that people need to find are locally-based and require ADRC staff who closely monitor current developments. 

In its resolution, the Crawford County Board stated that “This upheaval was initiated without input from ADRCs, people receiving long term care services and/or their families, aging and disability advocates, local officials, the State Long Term Care Advisory Council, or legislators.” 

The County Board’s resolution also states, “ADRCs provide one-stop information, while in the proposed fragmented model, people will get shifted among entities and the most difficult situations will be left to county government without resources.” 

The County Board also noted that the current system of ADRCs and long term care programs have created huge savings for taxpayers while maintaining quality. The Medicaid portion of the budget has decreased from 53 percent in 2002 to 43 percent in 2011 and the nursing home population decreased by 11,000 people thereby reducing nursing home costs. The county’s resolution points out that ADRCs are governed locally by the people they serve and that ADRCs attribute much of their success to community partners and local volunteers. 

“We help people to stay in their homes. We’re the front door for that,” said Christie, who noted that the ADRC assists people with such things as bathing, preparing meals, getting from their bed to their chair, and many other needs. It is much cheaper to stay in one’s own home than in a nursing home, Christie said. 

Christie also noted that the Crawford County ADRC allows for face-to-face interactions with people asking questions about ADRC services and many other questions including explaining Family Care, IRIS, helping with the Medicaid application process, enrollment counseling and the functional screening process. 

Christie said that with the governor’s proposal in the budget, there are unknowns about who people will have to go to for care, services and to have their questions answered. Christie questioned whether a large, out-of-state, for profit and “faceless” insurance company, for example, would have the local knowledge or be able to have face-to-face interactions with people, or whether people would be inclined to call such a company.

In fact, with all of the unknowns looming, State Representative Mark Born, a Republican from Beaver Dam, has introduced a motion to remove from the 2015-2017 budget changes to the ADRCs, Family Care, and IRIS. 

Born said in his motion, “The governor’s budget proposes wide-ranging changes to the current Family Care, IRIS, and ADRC programs. These proposed changes affect thousands of individuals across the state. I have heard from groups and constituents who are concerned with the lack of details and clear plan brought forward, leaving them unable to prepare for any changes. I am introducing this motion because these proposed changes need further research by the Department of Health Services, as well as more input from stakeholders to better understand how they will affect participants, their families, and the state.”

Christie told Crawford County Board members at the April meeting that she found it to be quite curious that the governor signed a proclamation declaring May of 2015 to be Aging and Disability Resource Center Month, while at the same time proposing its demise in the state budget.

Christie said that the ADRC is successful and popular among the people and has garnered praise. She noted that the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conducted a study in which they named Wisconsin’s ADRC was the fourth best in the nation. AARP also named Wisconsin’s Long Term Care program as the eighth best nationally. In 2010, the U.S. Administration on Aging honored the Wisconsin Department of Health Services with an Outstanding Achievement Award for “its pioneering work and continued innovation with Aging and Disability Resource Centers.” Federal officials emphasized that the Wisconsin model is a model other states should follow.

Crawford County’s ADRC and ADRCs in all 72 counties of the state are threatened with being dismantled if the proposal remains in the state budget. Christie, the Crawford County Board of Supervisors, and many other county boards are on record as being opposed to this budget proposal. 

 
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