Bewley, Milroy Talk Proposed Changes on Long-Term Care

Walker's Budget Cuts Could Eliminate Popular Programs

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Families of disabled Wisconsinites are taking a stand against Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal and begging lawmakers to save long-term care programs as the state has known them in the past.

Wisconsin democrats say they have found more problems with Gov. Walker’s proposed budget.

Monday, Rep. Nick Milroy and Sen. Janet Bewley took a trip to Superior to hear how proposed cuts could affect the elderly and disabled.

“It’s so scary I can’t even put a finger on it because we have no idea what going to happen,” said full-time caretaker Dawn Karlon. “It’s all kind of unknown for even the higher ups that were here today.”

Local lawmakers say it’s emotional and personal stories that make their job so important.

Monday they heard from dozens of people who will be directly impacted by potential program cuts and long-term care changes.

“We need to take care of those that are the most vulnerable,” said Karlon.

Karlon is a full-time caregiver to her daughter, Leah, who lives life with a smile, a seizure disorder, and cerebral palsy.

“We don’t feel comfortable having outsiders that don’t know anything about her taking care of her,” said Karlon.

She and thousands of Wisconsin families take advantage of a regional care program called IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct).

“It allows people to stay in their homes for as long as possible and that gives them the best quality of life,” said state representative Nick Milroy. “It also saves the state a lot of money.”

With Gov. Walker’s current proposal, IRIS would be no more, and that’s got Northern Wisconsin pretty concerned.

“It will affect the individuals and it will also affect the staffing and so forth,” said Larry Quam of Superior.

“I do know there would be strangers on board, people that you would have to call a 1-800 number and discuss if there were problems,” said Karlon.

Fox 21 asked Governor Walker’s office about the proposed changes to long-term care and reps from the Department of Human Services replied, “As the population ages, and the costs of long-term care services continue to rise, this new model will improve the coordination of care while creating service and financial efficiencies.”

“It’s working well,” said Rep. Milroy. “Why fix it if it’s not broken?”

Community members along with local lawmakers believe current programs which are regionally run are great.

Under the new budget, regional and personal care organizations would be turned over to the state.

“This is very personal for a lot of people and they want to make sure that we are treating their family members the way that anybody would want their family members treated,” said Milroy.

For caretakers like Karlon, a major change is scary, and right now the future of her daughter’s long term care plan is unknown.

“We’ve taken care of her all these years and we feel that she’s very happy and thriving and it would be stressful to her to have a major change in her life,” said Karlon.

Lawmakers say it’s important to note the budget is still a proposal, and if enough people speak up, change can happen.

There is a joint committee finance budget hearing Mar. 23. The meeting will take place in Rice Lake on the UW-Barron County campus starting at 10 a.m.

Local lawmakers are urging people from Superior to make the trip to ensure their voice is heard.

If you cannot attend, lawmakers urge community members to submit testimony by e-mailing sen.bewley@legis.wi.gov  or rep.milroy@legis.wi.gov.

By law, the governor’s budget must be voted on by July 1, 2015.

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