My first awareness of DRW came well over 20 yrs ago. I met a DRW staff member who came to Kenosha, WI to talk to people like myself who were consumers of Mental Health Services about personal empowerment and rights. She has been a leader in the field for the rights of people who have a Mental Health Disorder. Her name is Attny Diane Greenley who I have found to be has a mentor, inspirational and a comrade in the area of rights for all people with a disability and specifically with a Mental Illness.
This was a starting point for myself to a incorporate advocacy skills not only for myself but also for others. After this connection a couple years later I had met the Milwaukee Office Director of DRW who was leading a Coalition Conference in WI Dells on Advocacy. His name is Tom Hlavachek. I was asked by the local NAMI organization to attend this meeting. I was forever changed and encouraged by all who attended the conference and the great coalition building skills that DRW staff Tom Hlavacheck instilled into me. This was in the earlier days of our Mental Health Consumer movement in WI was gaining momentum. Then my local NAMI representative asked me to join onto the Mental Health Advisory Committee to the DRW Board. This is the point were I got to meet many other people from around the state and also many dedicated staff at DRW. Here is were I learned about the incredible work DRW was doing along with fighting for the rights for so many Wisconsinites with other disabilities. Their passion and dedication with which the DRW staff worked was verocious and at times against so many odds. Some of the stories of advocating that the staff would tell would bring tears to my eyes. DRW and that staff were quite often the only hope that a person with a disability would have to help the individual or person with their basic human dignity and rights. I served on that committee for a couple years and then was asked to join DRWs Board. I was new to the experience of being a voluntary board member and wasn't sure if I knew how. However, I felt so moved by DRWs mission and the ability overall that DRW was able to advocate and fight for the rights of WI citizens with disabilities I felt honored and excited to assist in DRWs mission. I have been on the board for 6 yrs before my terms ran out. After a year I was asked to consider rejoining which I did an am finishing up four more years with one two year term left to serve. I mention this because I have seen DRW workforce grow, a change in Executive Directors, the commitment and steadfastness of all the staff and the ongoing RESPECT for which DRW is seen as a positive force in our state. I have witnessed first hand the positive and life changing effects that DRW has pursued and brought for all WI citizens with disabilities. Those stories are so many that I can not do them justice here to tell them. The ongoing education on self advocacy, system changes, education of the public and legislators is monumental. I myself have learned so much more and have been embraced for my personal strengths and experience by fellow board members, staff and others in the community. I feel that I DO MATTER and so do my fellow peers with disabilities. This all that I am trying to express here is what DRW is about and how important it is to believe in oneself, ones personal rights, the rights of others, and the importance of ADVOCACY in people's life. This is the nuts and bolts that pulses throughout the agency. I am so proud of the staff, the agency and the respect we have for others. I am only one person that has been so impacted, now multiply that by hundreds and hundreds more. Our agency is also recognized on a national level too. Within our national organizational membership we are looked at as a great organization to refer upon. Just think. This all started from a chance meeting with A staff member over 20 yrs ago. Respectfully submitted by Cathy Kunze
It has been my privilege to serve on the Board of Disability Rights Wisconsin for the past six years. During that time I have come to know many of the staff. Without exception they are knowledgeable professionals with the expertise and experience necessary to protect the rights of all people with disabilities and to successfully advocate for change on their behalf. But what makes this a premiere organization is their unwavering dedication, passion, tenacity, and personal commitment to make a difference.
I have found Disability Rights Wisconsin to be responsive and informative over many years in their work advocating and assiting people with disabilities.
DRW and the personnel that are employed are a great help to the disabled and more. I had a very good friend who's title 19 medicaid insurance was always being dropped and it was one particular paerson at the DRW every year that would get her insurance re-instated as she needed. Without the help of the DRW I do not know what we would have done. Because Dr.'s would not see her and pharmacies would tell her she had to pay full price for her scripts etc.
Disability Rights of Wisconsin has a long history of protecting the rights of elderly and disabled members of our SSI-focused insurance plan. We have referred many active and prospective members to DRW who need guidance in navigating through complex health and social security issues. One of DRW's many volunteer attorneys, on several occasions, has been indispensible. We thank you, DRW. Our members thank you.