OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV, Heather Sawaski) – Local advocates for the cognitively disabled are raising concerns over a recent ruling.
Lynn Ruedinger says there’s no place her brother would rather be.
“Terry has been here for 30 years,” she explained. “This is his whole life, this is his purpose, this is what he gets up in the morning for.”
Terry is one of 150 associates at Lakeside Packaging Plus in Oshkosh, a non-profit organization aimed at providing employment and other activities for the cognitively disabled.
“Anyone who comes to Lakeside and wants to work we find a way to provide the individual with work,” said Margaret Winn, CEO of Lakeside Packaging Plus.
Winn said that could all change due to a new waiver renewal plan from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services.
“There is no specific reference to center-based facilities, like Lakeside, and it’s causing a great deal of concern,” she said.
According to the DHS website, they have not yet received guidelines from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on how to assess these adult day programs. Winn and other local advocates fear this could mean a cut in funding and eventual closure.
“They’re thinking that they’re helping the individuals by saying they’ll be more integrated if we don’t have places like Lakeside or group homes,” explained Lori Mason, Cognitive Disabilities Transition Teacher at Neenah High School. “But really what you’re doing is taking away their choice because a lot of those individuals need that extra support.”
“It would be a terrible loss for them,” said Winn “I see isolation. I see loneliness.”
Lynn Ruedinger sees a major set-back.
“My greatest wish is, of course, that they continue to fund this because my brother is not the only person in this kind of situation,” she added.
The DHS is taking public comment on the waiver program until September 2nd. Winn wants to see the federal guidelines, then get an extra 30 days to provide comment.
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