The Arc Wisconsin has been working alongside other advocates in the state to help define who is considered a “health care provider” during the COVID-19 pandemic and to make sure that definition includes those direct support professionals who provide care to people with disabilities.

Why is this important? 

As local communities start to reopen, providers who employ direct support professionals will need to ensure the safety of both their workers and the people with disabilities they serve. Families will want to know that the people coming into their home or supporting their loved one have access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) and are prioritized for these safety protocols. If they aren’t included in this definition they will not get priority and in many cases will have to compete for resources.

The Arc Wisconsin’s Lisa Pugh, Co-Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving, recently sent this message to Governor Evers on behalf of the Task Force: 

Some states are expanding their COVID-19 definition of “health care provider” to specifically include providers of home and community-based services (community health providers) for people with disabilities and older adults as part of the recognized essential workforce that is keeping vulnerable populations safe, while also risking their own health by providing essential personal cares that cannot be completed with social distancing. People with disabilities and older adults sometimes live and receive care in congregate settings such as group homes, community-based residential facilities or nursing homes, where COVID-19 spread and fatality rates have been disproportionately high.  People with disabilities and older adults who receive care in their homes are also at risk when receiving personal cares. Ensuring that Wisconsin’s COVID-19 definition of health care provider is inclusive will ensure that these community-based direct/personal care workers and their employers, including workers in the self-directed care program and paid family caregivers,  can access all appropriate benefits, flexibilities and protections.

Proposal: Wisconsin should, in all COVID-19 response planning and policies, adopt a definition of health care provider that includes any employee or any provider of support to people with I/DD, people with physical disabilities, older adults, individuals with mental health needs, including substance use, and who is providing direct care and support essential to activities of daily living and independence funded through any state or federal program, including Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waivers.”

The Arc Wisconsin has also collaborated with the Disability Service Provider Network (DSPN) ,Wisconsin APSE and other groups on a letter to the Department of Health Services which requests this definition, and also shares concerns about access to PPE and supplemental provider payments. Read the letter here.

If you think it is important for direct support professionals who work with people with disabilities to be considered as “health care providers” for all the reasons above, tell your state legislator. Find their contact information here