By Brian Peters, Housing Policy Advocate
Last week, staff from IndependenceFirst participated in the annual training and legislative visits known as “IL Days.” The Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in Wisconsin believe it is important to be constantly training and furthering the knowledge of staff of each of the CILs. Toward that end, on Tuesday staff from the eight CILs in Wisconsin conducted an annual pilgrimage to Madison for an all-day training on a variety of topics, including advocacy, housing, Family Care and IRIS, ethics, and outreach.
The next day, everyone headed over to the Capitol for legislative visits. IndependenceFirst staff constituents visited 43 Assembly Representatives and Senators. We discussed the issues of long term care, Medicaid expansion, transportation, and mental health & substance abuse. We also educated legislators about Centers for Independent Living and the role we play in assisting people with disabilities to live independently.
As important as those face-to-face meetings with legislators are, it’s just as important to constantly educate legislators on disability issues throughout the year. New things are happening all the time, so face-to-face meetings, regardless of frequency, aren’t able to cover everything of importance to the disability community. For instance, last Wednesday Governor Walker announced that Wisconsin would not participate in an expansion of Medicaid coverage. Because of the timing of the announcement—shortly AFTER we’d met with legislators—we were not able to provide face-to-face feedback on the decision. Going forward, it’ll be important for all constituents—staff of IndependenceFirst and other CILs, people with disabilities, and interested citizens such as you—to discuss their concerns about this issue and others with legislators.
If you’d like more information on issues important to CILs this year, you can find the issue papers from the Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers (WCILC) and the Independent Living Council of Wisconsin (ILCW) at http://www.il-wisconsin.net/coalition-trainings/ under “Issue Papers.”