March 10, 2021
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683

Wisconsin Eliminates Waitlist for Long-Term Care Services for Medicaid-Eligible Adults

Success achieved in decades-long effort to ensure Wisconsinites who are elderly or have physical or developmental disabilities can receive home and community-based services

On February 28, 2021, a 40-year-old individual with a physical disability from Adams County was referred to IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct), Wisconsin’s self-directed long-term care program. This individual was the last person waiting to join one of Wisconsin’s long-term care programs that provide home and community-based services to eligible adults who are elderly or have physical or intellectual disabilities.

“Wisconsin’s long-term care programs embrace a person-centered approach that allows people to live their best life in their homes and communities,” said DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake. “This achievement is the culmination of over four decades of work by advocates, state and county agency staff, tribal leaders, legislators, providers, stakeholders, families, self-advocates, and citizens. While we are proud to have reached this important milestone, we will continue to find new ways to keep our state at the forefront of long-term care.”

In 1999, Wisconsin took an important step forward on the journey to achieve a long-term care system that would ensure anyone who was eligible for Medicaid long term care services, and wished to stay in their home or in a community-based setting, was able to do so. The then Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services authorized the pilot of the Family Care program in five counties. IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct), the state’s self-directed program for Wisconsin’s frail elders and adults with disabilities, was created in 2008.

Over the years with subsequent budgets, Family Care and IRIS expanded throughout the state with the last county adopting Family Care on July 1, 2018. Currently, more than 77,000 individuals participate in Wisconsin’s Family Care, Family Care Partnership, PACE, and IRIS programs.