A deadline on comments on a state plan that would affect Chippewa River Industries in Chippewa Falls and other facilities that hire workers with disabilities is Tuesday.

At issue is proposed changes by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to the Family Care Waiver. The proposal would change how government would consider employment for the disabled.

“We have some fundamental problems with the plan that could have a negative impact on the lives of people with disabilities,” CRI’s Facebook page says. “The plan is not complete and does not guarantee that the full array of services, including facility-based work and day services, will continue to be an option for people with disabilities.”

State Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhodes says her department is balancing what will work in Wisconsin with the CMS requirements that call for integrated day services and employment, according to a story in The Janesville Gazette.

Chippewa River Industries hires people with disabilities to work on packaging for food products, putting together point-of-purchase displays and automotive parts. The most famous item it produces is the Terrible Towel, used by Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

Dave Lemanski, CEO and president of CRI, said what’s not listed in the proposal concerns him.

“We just think it’s bad government to issue a plan on something that’s incomplete,” he said, adding that it is being considered before the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides guidance on rule changes it issued in January.

“I can’t guarantee in the next year or two that we will be serving the same number of people we serve in Chippewa Falls,” said Lemanski. CRI serves 130 to 140 people a day, but he sees a future where that number is reduced to perhaps 30 people.

Lemanski is concerned the people who would not have jobs in the future are those with the most severe disabilities. He said CMS doesn’t want people to live and work in what’s considered segregated settings.

“Why can’t people with disabilities work with their peers?” he asked. “Their wishes and choices are being legislated. And that’s really unfortunate.”

Read the original story here.

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