Wisconsin Cuts Back on Long-Term Care for Disabled

Aaron Underwood’s seizures finally came under control when, at age 3, he was admitted to a state care facility for the developmentally disabled. His mother soon realized the treatment he received there was better than what she and her husband could provide. Aaron, 35, still lives at Central Wisconsin Center in Madison. He is unable to sit up without support. Lacking purposeful movement, he functions at the level of a four- to 12-week-old infant, unable to speak. The care the facility provides its residents and their families, his mother said, “turns their lives around.” But fewer Wisconsin residents are receiving institutional care. In 1970, the state’s three centers housed 3,700 people. At the end of last year, their total population was 389.

Only two still provide long-term care — with patients living at the facility for at least six months, and often for years. Neither has admitted new patients in more than 15 years. The decline is part of a national movement to take people out of institutions and integrate them into the community. But Underwood, who with her husband runs a coalition of family members and advocates for people with intellectual disabilities, worries the trend may have gone too far. In one recent case, a family has gone to court to compel the state to provide long-term institutional care. On the other hand, some disability rights advocates would like the state to end long-term institutionalization altogether. “There’s really no reason for people with developmental disabilities to need that level of institutional care,” said Mitch Hagopian, an attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, a state advocacy group that is part of a federally mandated network of protection agencies. “There are sufficient community resources available to provide adequate care for people and in a setting that’s more natural and integrated into the community.”

Source/more: Appleton (WI) Post Crescent

David Wingate is an elder law attorney practicing in Frederick and Montgomery Counties. David Wingate’s practice includes wills, powers of attorneys, trusts, asset protection and Medical assistance (Medicaid).

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