Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Tribe to Benefit from Aging Advocates Efforts

By: Richard D. Ackley, Jr.
The Wisconsin state budget is a hot topic as legislators met in joint session last Tuesday to work on the 2019-2021 Biennial Budget. The budget is expected go to Governor Evers by the end of June.

According to the Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network (WAAN), this budget will not only significantly impact older adults and caregivers by improving the health and well-being of Wisconsin’s aging population, but will also have a positive effect on Tribal communities such as Mole Lake.

WAAN welcomed 337 advocates from across the state to participate in the 4th Annual Aging Advocacy Day, which gave advocates time to communicate the many issues facing our senior population to elected government officials. Members of the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly were in joint session working on the budget.

WAAN is a group of individuals and associations working for older adults to shape public policy that improves the quality of life for people throughout the state. It is projected that in 2020, one in four Wisconsin residents will be age 60 and older. WAAN educates supporters and opponents, mobilizes allies on priority issues, and advocates positions utilizing the shared experience, knowledge and constituencies of member organizations.

Among the many issues discussed with legislators were expanding the dementia care specialist program. The Sokaogon Chippewa Community does not have a dementia care specialist. As it stands, 24 dementia care specialists are serving 21 Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) in 34 counties and three Tribal communities.

Wisconsin currently has a Tribal Aging Unit Association; however, Mole Lake has not formally initiated its own organization and pulled out of the Aging and Disability Resource Center of the Northwoods-Crandon. Tribal Members must still rely on the assistance of the ADRC for “functional screens” to assess each individual’s personal situation in order to get the necessary help.

Increased funding is critical to maintain a positive atmosphere statewide and for specialized transportation programs. An increase in Medicaid provider reimbursements to raise direct care workers wages to an average of $15 per hour is necessary. An increase in the investment of Healthy Aging Grants would broaden the reach and impact of proven programs that save millions of health care dollars in the areas of older adult falls, chronic conditions, diabetes and caregiving.

Advocates were equipped to talk with legislators about the need to create a Caregiver Tax Credit to provide financial relief to caregivers and enable older adults to remain at home with the support of family members. Lastly, WAAN advocated for increased state funding for the Elder Benefit Specialist (EBS)program, which specializes in counseling for assistance and appeals with Medicare, Medicaid, other health insurance coverage issues, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, FoodShare, housing and consumer debt.

For more information, contact Janet Zander, Advocacy and Public Policy Coordinator, at 715-677-6723 or 608-228-7253.