La Crosse County reflects on Walker’s proposals on Family Care Program

Gov. Walker is calling for statewide Family Care Program

La Crosse County has had a successful Family Care Program for almost two decade,s helping those who need assistance, whether it’s financial guidance or in-home care, to find the right resources, but now Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is calling for a statewide program.

In Walker’s proposed biennial budget, he calls for efficiency when it comes to longer-term care by expanding the Family Care Program to all 72 counties in Wisconsin.

Director of Human Services in La Crosse County Jason Witt said that expansion sounds good on paper but the impact locally may have the opposite effect.

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Western Wisconsin has been in the community for 17 years.

“Providing information and assistance free of charge that is unbiased for people when they have questions about long-term care services for adults,” said Audra Martine, director of ADRC of Western Wisconsin.

The ADRC is part of the Family Care Program.

“One of the successes of the Family Care model is that it is locally based being able to talk to individuals and finding out their needs face to face and responding very quickly,” said Witt.

With Walker calling for an expansion of the Family Care program statewide, the La Crosse County Family Policy Board met Monday to discuss the proposed changes and how they could impact La Crosse County.

When it comes to services, most are provided by local organizations within the county, offering face-to-face interaction.

“Being a county-run entity does allow us opportunities to help county services in other ways because of our inside connections,” said Martine.

Gov. Walker’s proposal would allow contracts with non-local statewide private entities.

“When you become a statewide program, you don’t have those local feelers in the community,” said Witt.

When it comes to advisory, the local ADRC has a governing board.

“If something isn’t going well, you can go to the county board,” said Witt.

Under Gov. Walker’s new proposal, the ADRC governing board would be eliminated.

“We don’t know what that response would be if it goes statewide,” said Witt.

Witt and Martine aren’t saying efficiency is a bad thing.

“There are concepts that have an upside, like consistency,” said Witt.

However, they both feel more questions need to be answered before the proposal is approved.

“This is a significant change and we don’t really know all of the details yet,” said Martine.

If approved, the proposed changes to the Family Care program and other Human Services programs would go into effect in January 2017.