The Employment First, Partners with Business, and Supported Decision-Making Bills were all passed by the Senate on Tuesday, March 20th. The bills are now on their way to the Governor to be signed into law. The passage of the bills is the direct result of the efforts placed forth by those advocating for individuals with disabilities in Wisconsin.
Below is a summary of each bill and links to more information on each of the bills:
Employment First: This bill establishes a number of requirements for certain state agencies to promote competitive integrated employment, as defined under federal law. The requirements in the bill include all of the following:
1. A requirement that publicly funded programs that provide services and supports to working-age persons with disabilities, when enabling the participation of persons with disabilities in activities outside their homes, prioritize competitive integrated employment.
2. A requirement that the Department of Workforce Development, with assistance from the departments of Public Instruction and Health Services, lead collaboration among all state agencies that administer programs that provide services and supports to working-age persons with disabilities.
3. A requirement that the three departments described above jointly develop a plan establishing specific performance improvement targets and describing specific methods used to coordinate efforts to ensure that programs, policies, and procedures support competitive integrated employment. The departments must update the plan biennially. The departments must also annually report on the progress, outcomes, and achievements made in increasing participation in competitive integrated employment in accordance with the plan described above. The departments must either publish or provide access to the plan and reports on their Internet sites or through a single, state-maintained Internet site.
Partners with Business: This bill requires the Board for People with Developmental Disabilities to develop a program to provide coaching for the hiring of individuals with disabilities. “Coaching,” under this bill, is providing specific, targeted supports to a business, school district, or vocational agency that demonstrates how coworkers can provide internal support to a coworker with a disability, eliminating the need for a job coach or other individual from outside of the employer. BPDD is required to take certain actions specified in the bill for the coaching program. BPDD is required to provide the coaching to private and nonprofit businesses and to schools, care management organizations that administer Family Care or the Family Care Partnership Program, consultant agencies that assist enrollees in the self-directed services option known as IRIS, and other employment services providers for the state's long-term care programs.
The bill requires BPDD to request proposals from those businesses, schools, care management organizations, consultant agencies, and employment services providers to participate in a coaching program for the hiring of individuals with disabilities. The bill then requires BPDD to provide coaching and award grants to those entities that meet criteria specified in the bill.
Supported Decision Making: This bill allows an adult with a functional impairment to create a supported decision-making agreement to allow another person, referred to as a “supporter,” to assist the adult with certain decision-making by providing assistance with one or more of the following:
Understanding the options, responsibilities, and consequences of the adult's life decisions, without making the decision for the adult;
Accessing, collecting, and obtaining information that is relevant to a given life decision, including medical, psychological, financial, educational, or treatment records;
Understanding that information once it is obtained;
Communicating the adult's life decisions to the appropriate people.
Under the bill, a designated supporter is not a surrogate decision maker for the adult and is not authorized to sign legal documents for the adult or bind the adult to a legal agreement. The supporter has only the authority granted by the adult under the terms of the supported decision-making agreement. Execution of a supported decision-making agreement does not preclude an adult with a functional impairment from acting independently of the agreement, nor may the agreement be used as evidence of incapacity or incompetency.
The bill requires the Department of Health Services to prepare and provide access to a supported decision-making form and information regarding supported decision-making. Under the bill, a supported decision-making agreement must be in writing, in substantially the form provided under the bill, entered into voluntarily, and signed and dated either before at least two adult witnesses or a notary public in order to be valid.
The bill provides immunity for persons under certain circumstances, including a person whose act or failure to act is done in good faith and in reliance on a supported decision-making agreement. The bill provides, however, that there is no immunity from actions alleging that a health care provider caused personal injury as a result of a negligent, reckless, or intentional act, acted inconsistently with the expressed wishes of an adult with a functional impairment, failed to provide information to either an adult with a functional impairment or his or her supporter that would be necessary for informed consent, or otherwise acted inconsistently with applicable law. In addition, under the bill, the existence or availability of a supported decision-making agreement does not relieve a health care provider of any legal obligation to provide services to individuals with disabilities.
Finally, under the bill, if a person who receives a copy of a supported decision-making agreement or who is aware of the existence of a supported decision-making agreement has reason to believe that the adult with a functional impairment is being abused, neglected, or exploited by the supporter, that person may report the issue to an appropriate elder-at-risk agency, adult-at-risk agency, state or local law enforcement, or DHS. This bill does not eliminate or limit a person's existing obligation to report such circumstances under any other statute or regulation.