Saving IRIS…one more time

About a year ago, in my role as a member of the Board of the Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin, I joined with other disability advocates to encourage the Joint Finance Committee to reject Governor Walker’s budget proposal to eliminate IRIS, which stands for, “Include, Respect, I Self-Direct.” IRIS is Wisconsin’s self-directed, community- based, long-term care program for adults with disabilities & older adults with long-term care needs. People using IRIS have the flexibility to self-direct their plan of care within an authorized budget based upon their individual needs and desired outcomes. IRIS participants choose and direct the services and supports that make it possible for them to live, work, and participate in their communities, allowing more people to stay in their homes and avoid costly nursing homes and other institutions.

Save Iris

We were partially successful. Both the Joint Finance Committee and the Wisconsin legislature rejected Gov. Walker’s radical upending of Wisconsin’s long-term care system. However, in doing so, the budget which ultimately passed directed the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to obtain public input and propose a new system that would be managed by private health insurance companies, instead of the current non-profit care management organizations. This has become known as Family Care/IRIS 2.0.

Yesterday, I co-signed a letter from the three Autism Society affiliates to the Joint Finance Committee in which we state that we:

do not believe the Department of Health Services has justified the disruption of care to the 55,000+ people currently enrolled in Family Care and IRIS programs.

Specifically, we are concerned about:

  •   The uncertain future of self-direction and the IRIS Program: The concept paper does not reflect the level of self-direction of the current IRIS program. There remain significant questions as to how current IRIS participants will experience self-direction as they do now.
  •   The uncertain future of Behavioral Health Services: The concept paper is lacking details on how behavioral health services may be integrated in the new model.

    We also share many of the conclusions made by the Wisconsin Long Term Care Coalition in their Analysis of the Numbers behind Family Care/IRIS 2.0 on May 11, 2016.

    Given that there are no projected savings in long term care as a result of Family Care/IRIS 2.0 and there are still significant questions about the concept plan, we believe that moving ahead at this point would unnecessarily disrupt the lives of over 55,000 Wisconsin residents.

    We are writing to ask members of the Joint Finance Committee not to move forward with the Family Care/IRIS 2.0 concept plan as currently written.

The good news is that since Family Care and IRIS operate under a federal Medicaid waiver, they cannot be modified without federal approval. The Walker administration has already conceded that it understands this cannot happen until at least 2018. Hopefully, the next President will accept the recommendations of Wisconsin elders and people with disabilities, their families and friends, who are generally satisfied with the current Family Care/IRIS long term care system and do not want their lives disrupted, their independence lost, and their futures controlled by for-profit health insurance companies.


For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact him by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.




It Makes a Difference

Recently, in an effort to make himself look Presidential, the presumptive Republican nominee put out a list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Meanwhile, Republican Senators continue to abdicate their responsibility by failing to hold hearings and a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, a well respected moderate, to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court. While that seat remains empty, the Supreme Court continues to flounder with numerous 4-4 ties, recently sending a case back to the lower court for further consideration to avoid yet another tie.


Perhaps the most lasting Presidential impact is the power to nominate Supreme Court justices. Since these are lifetime appointments, the average tenure of a Supreme Court Justice is 16 years, or twice as long as the maximum amount of time a President can serve. We have recently seen the powerful impact of the Supreme Court on our society as it legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

The Supreme Court’s impact on our society depends on who is on the Court. In 1896, the Court established the concept of “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson. In 1954, the Supreme Court ended that hateful racist legacy in Brown v. Board of Education.

During the Roosevelt era, the same Court that upheld much of the New Deal, also upheld the detention of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War 2, one of the most shameful acts of our nation.

As I reviewed the presumptive Republican nominee’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees should he be elected, I noted that the name of a judge whom I have appeared before and followed her career closely. Diane Sykes, is a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, who left her post to accept a seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While she is well known for her ultra-conservative opinions upholding voter ID, and restricting employees’ access to birth control, what concerns me as an attorney is her complete disdain for her fellow judicial colleagues as well as the attorneys who practice before her.

When Judge Sykes accepted her current appointment to the Seventh Circuit, it should have come as no surprise that then Governor of Wisconsin, Jim Doyle, would appoint a very different Justice to replace her, and indeed he did, when he appointed the Hon. Louis Butler, whom I have known for many years and for whom I have a great deal of respect. Yet, in utter disregard for the fact that she created the opening for Butler’s appointment, she publicly criticized the Wisconsin Supreme Court after her departure in such an outlandish manner that it provoked a thoughtful law review article from federal district court Judge Lynn Adelman.

In 2013, Judge Sykes joined Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when they gave speeches at the arch-conservative Federalist society’s fundraising dinner provoking an ethics complaint from a member of Congress, Common Cause and the Alliance for Justice.

In late 2011, I appeared before her when she sat on the Seventh Circuit panel reviewing the appeal by Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) of our special education class action which we had won in federal district court, thereafter settling with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, in a comprehensive manner that was working to make dramatic improvements in MPS. What I witnessed from Judge Sykes was a level of disrespect for her colleagues (literally eye-rolling at the well respected Judge Rovner’s questions) and my co-counsel (chastising her repeatedly without cause), that I knew that if she wrote the decision, we would lose. Of course, as soon as we received the decision and I saw it was authored by Judge Sykes, I knew before reading it that we had lost. Not surprisingly, Judge Rovner dissented.

So, when you cast your vote in November, remember that the next President will likely reshape the Supreme Court with as many as 4 nominations, which will shape our nation’s legal environment, including its civil rights for decades to come. It will make a difference.


For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

Ignore the Narcissist

Much has been written about the rise of he who shall not be named (no, I’m not talking about Voldemort), and whether or not Republican leaders should support him. It really should not be complicated. Anyone who cannot call him what he is–a pathologically lying narcissist that espouses fascist, racist and sexist policies, is simply a coward, regardless of political stripe.


Despite his obvious downsides, he has secured the Republican Presidential nomination and his popularity amongst his fans, who have difficulty discerning reality TV from reality, keeps growing. What needs to be understood is that he is the ultimate narcissist. The best thing we can do to deflate the narcissist is ignore him (hence, my refusal to include his name in this post).

I understand that there are those in the media who may find this impossible to do. After all, how can the media fail to cover the Republican nominee? While that is certainly a challenge, commercial media does not need to extend the broad coverage it freely grants him and social media feeds his ego by spreading his vile hate every time a story about him is shared (no matter how negative).

The best antidote for a narcissist is to ignore him.


It is pretty clear that he has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) which is defined as:

a personality disorder, characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. People with the disorder often come across as a combination of arrogant, callous, and envious. They also tend to be exploitative in their interpersonal relationships and can be excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. Those with NPD generally have poor insight into their condition and may not acknowledge that their behavior causes problems for others or for themselves.

The challenge we face is that periodically criticizing or ignoring a narcissist will not succeed. It must be consistent. If we truly want to eliminate this negative influence from our lives, we must do our best to completely ignore him. The narcissist feeds on attention, whether positive or negative. We must resist the temptation to give him exactly what he wants.

What Republicans do with their gigantic narcissist is their problem. While starting a 3rd party may not help them win the presidency, it may salvage the morality of Republicans who rightfully loathe their presumptive nominee. It will allow them to start over after their nominee loses and moves on to his next reality TV show or failed business venture.

But, for the rest of us, let us pledge to ignore the narcissist and focus on the opportunity his destruction of the Republican party presents us. Just as Johnson’s landslide victory over Goldwater led to momentous civil rights legislation, we should be planning for the next round of major civil rights legislation that our next President and Congress will pass. Perhaps our nation will finally be ready to pass the long moribund Equal Rights Amendment. After all, now that we live in a nation that has marriage equality, why not live in a nation that enshrines equal rights for all in its Constitution?


For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

Designed for Success

Earlier this week, I attended a Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association meeting during which a draft Homeless Day Resource Center concept paper, that was developed through a collaborative effort of the City of Madison, Dane County and United Way of Dane County, was presented by City and County staff as well as a representative from Dorschner Associates, the firm which whom Dane County has contracted to do the architecture and design work to transform the old Messner building into the the new Day Resource Center. Many interested neighbors attended, along with advocates for the homeless, potential service providers, and some people who are homeless.

When the concept paper is finalized, it will serve as the guiding document for the Request for Proposals to solicit an operator for the resource center. But, before the concept paper was discussed, the Dorchner representative presented the design for the completely reconfigured building.

It is important to keep in mind, that the old Messner property has been an eyesore for a long time. This is what it looks like now.

The new design will restore the original brick exterior of the original Coca-Cola bottling plant that the building was designed for and remove the front and sides so the set back from the sidewalk is restored to 15 feet and there is space to create a garden and an enclosed children’s play area.

As I had hoped, the new design will transform the current eyesore into a welcome addition to our neighborhood. The interior design transforms what is now a big empty space into a multi-function area that should be well suited to providing many basic needs to people who are homeless in our community. I commend Dorschner Associates for their design work.

While there are many steps that still need to be taken, including finding a qualified operator, the concept paper sets out a fairly good initial framework for a successful resource center that could become a national model for a homeless day resource center.

The concept paper proposes that initially, the day resource center will have the following services:

  • Case management to help with assessment, planning and access to critical resources;
  • Computer Lab to conduct housing and employment searches;
  • Coordinated intake to conduct housing assessments and connect individuals and families with shelter, housing, eviction prevention and rental assistance;
  • Housing Navigator to assist with housing searches, applications and addressing barriers to housing;
  • Private Partner Offices where individuals and families can confidentially connect with community resources;
  • Day rooms to provide refuge from the elements;
  • Kitchenette to prepare snacks and light meals;
  • Laundry;
  • Mail/message center so people without a fixed address can receive mail and messages;
  • Outdoor space including an outdoor playground for children and a separate outdoor space for adults;
  • Showers;
  • Day storage;
  • Telephone Access; and
  • Van transportation.

It is envisioned that as the provider builds organizational and financial capacity, the following services could be added:

  • Benefits counseling;
  • Haircuts;
  • Medical services;
  • Mental Health assessments;
  • Legal Services; and
  • Alcohol and other drug addiction (AODA) services.

The concept papers also calls for a security plan to be developed for both those who use the resource center and its neighbors, as well as ongoing community engagement.

Of course, the concept paper is still in the draft stage and some improvements should be made, including making clear the maximum capacity that the center can serve at any one time, and a clear identification of how the resource center fits into the city and county’s overall plan to address and reduce homelessness.

Overall, I believe the City and County, with the assistance of United Way, are doing a good job in moving this critical project forward by designing it for success. If an operator is found, and the county and city give the necessary approvals, the day resource center should be ready to use by the end of 2017. While it has been needed for years, the time taken to develop it wisely will pay off when it opens and serves those who desperately need it.


For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.