Chippewa River Industries is poised to expand at 1000 Lake Wissota Drive, including building a 20,000 square foot warehouse on its Chippewa Falls property.
But David Lemanski, the president and CEO of the non-profit agency, said CRI would be hurt financially if a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid proposal is adopted nationally
“We would probably see close to a 40 to 50 percent reduction in revenues. This is an industry-ending federal policy,” Lemanski said on Tuesday.
Lemanski said CRI does packaging for what he describes as one of the largest food companies in the world, and has a long relationship with Great Northern Corp., which has a plant in Chippewa Falls. CRI does work for Curt Manufacturing along with printing. He said the non-profit agency has a relationship with at least 25 local, statewide and national companies.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to expand a regulation now in place in New York state to other states. Lemanski said it would prohibit federal Medicaid funds to be used in programs such as the one used at Chippewa River Industries, which hires workers with disabilities.
As for its employees, Lemanski said: “We serve approximately 400 people a year in a five-county region. This would probably impact at least 200 people.”
Lemanski said the CMS wants so called “integrated” programs, where the disabled work alongside workers without disabilities.
But Lemanski said that restricts choice of jobs for the disabled, and would lead to a one size fits all disability policy. It would force people with the most significant disabilities into receiving fewer services and choices in finding work, he said.
“This is only going to increase the high unemployment rate for people with … disabilities,” Lemanski said.
“This would be some of the most devastating public policy for people with disabilities, if this is allowed,” he cautioned.
Lemanski said the CMS is basing its plan on an interpretation of a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C. That ruling said an unjustified segregation of the disabled is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We think that CMS has gone too far and that they are over-interpreting,” the Olmstead decision, said Thomas Cook, executive director for Rehabilitation for Wisconsin in Action. That’s a group with 60 members, including CRI.
“Most of our organizations offer a full array of services. That’s what we’re trying to preserve,” Cook said.
Cook said the CMS proposal could be implemented outside of New York state by the end of the year.
Lemanski has met with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) over the CMS proposal. Kind’s Third Congressional District covers southern Chippewa County, including Chippewa Falls and is encouraging others to contact their representatives or Kathleen Sebulius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, about the CMS plan.