SHERIDAN — Participants of Easter Seals Wyoming will present their 13th annual play at the WYO Theater on Friday.
While a theatrical performance in celebration of National Disabilities Awareness Month is a long-standing tradition for the organization, this year, dynamic funding policy changes are promising unprecedented changes to come for individuals who need assistance because of either developmental or acquired disabilities.
Wyoming legislators have approved a new model of operation aimed at providing assistance to disabled individuals who qualify for the state’s Medicaid waiver program. While approximately 2,300 people received funding under the program last year, about 600 more were on a waiting list and receiving no services.
When the Department of Health set out to address the hundreds of disabled Wyomingites getting no financial help with job rehabilitation, day services or other living assistance, officials decided to simply eliminate the wait list by authorizing everyone to get services.
“The big concern with the waiver is that in addressing the wait list, they’re putting no additional money into the funds,” Easter Seals Assistant Director Brandy Nielsen said. “Essentially, you’re funding more people on less amount of money, so there has to be changes. What those changes are and how our participants will be affected, unfortunately, we don’t know.”
Nielsen and others at Easter Seals joined other Sheridan firms that serve disabled individuals to fight against the changes to no avail, citing the potential that people would be left underserved, and therefore vulnerable, under the new funding guidelines.
“This is dynamically different than any other waiver design I’ve seen in Wyoming.” Nielsen said.
“We are a rural, frontier state. Those changes will be hard felt, but I think the biggest obstacle right now is the unknown that our families, participants and staff are facing,” Nielsen said, indicating that final operational directives will be issued in the coming months and will be implemented over the course of the year.
While Nielson is looking down the road in anticipation of spreading the same amount of resources over a bigger group of people, day-to-day operations at Easter Seals continue this week with a public play starring 32 clients.
Participants choose the theme of their annual play. This year’s performance is a satire of pop culture entitled “A Wild Night at the Grammy’s.”
“There are a lot of jokes this year because that was an overrunning theme that produced itself,” Nielsen said, adding that the performance will feature songs by Katy Perry and also the classic hits “In the Jungle” and “Wild Thing.”
“We write things in so everybody gets to highlight their strengths,” Nielsen said.
Performances are Friday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the WYO Theater, and admission is free, though donations will be accepted at the door.
Funds collected at the performance will be used for recreational programs at Easter Seals.