Program Information

Program Overview

IRIS – Include, Respect, I Self-Direct – is Wisconsin's Self-Directed Supports Program for older people and adults with disabilities. IRIS builds upon the belief that every person, regardless of age or ability, has the right to lead a meaningful life. You determine what your meaningful life looks like, including where you live, the job you want, the people you spend time with and how you are involved in your community.

IRIS recognizes that you have talents, skills, interests, and ideas that deserve attention. With this program, you can customize a plan that meets your care needs and enhances those assets. IRIS is dedicated to helping you create the life you want with the support you need.

What is Self-Direction?

Self-Direction means that you have increased control over the long-term care goods and services you purchase and how they are provided. You are empowered to make decisions about your life, including how the IRIS program can support your goals.

Budget Authority provides people with flexible budgets to purchase the goods and services they need.

Employer Authority enables people to hire their own workers.


Self-Direction has two basic features: employer authority and budget authority. Employer authority means that you can hire, supervise and dismiss your own workers. Budget authority provides you with a flexible budget from which to purchase a range of goods and services to meet your needs. Self-direction in IRIS offers you both of these options within program standards and requirements.

How Does IRIS Work?

Since 2008, IRIS has been working with people to create safe, personalized, and flexible long-term care plans. With an emphasis on responsibility and choice, each plan is designed to work with that person's individual goals. We believe there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan.

IRIS is a Medicaid waiver program. That means that the money you use for your goods and services comes from a combination of state and federal dollars. Being a part of IRIS means you are responsible to work within your budget. Use only the dollars you need to build a secure and healthy plan to meet your goals. Use your ForwardHealth card for those services covered by Medicaid.

You are encouraged to find creative ways to make your dollars go further. Our trained IRIS Consultants can help you discover other resources available to you through your neighborhood, church, and other organizations in your community.

When you create your supports and services plan, you have a network of people ready to help you. You can control how much assistance you want. Need a lot of help getting started? We can help you step-by-step. Just have a few questions? We are ready to help you find the answers.

Help and Support Available

You decide how much assistance you want with the IRIS program. Here are some of the people who can help you. You can also find additional information in the glossary.

Orientation Consultants

IRIS created the position of Orientation Consultant to guide people entering the IRIS program.

Orientation Consultants visit you in your home and explain how the IRIS program works. They may also help you choose an IRIS Consultant and assist you with your supports and services plan. Orientation Consultants are based in regions throughout Wisconsin.

IRIS Consultants

Choosing your IRIS Consultant is a very important step in the enrollment process. It is another way IRIS is different from other programs. We believe you should choose who you work with.

As part of the IRIS program, you will have an IRIS Consultant available to assist and support you while developing a plan to meet your needs. You choose the available IRIS Consultant you want to work with in your area.

Your IRIS Consultant knows a lot about the resources in your area. They are available to help you with nearly all aspects of the IRIS program, but they do not make choices for you. They network and solve problems; when complex situations arise, they know where to find the answers.

Information Center

The Information Center operates a toll-free phone number and an email system that is available to you 24/7. The Information Center is available to you, your family, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, and anyone else with questions about IRIS.

The Information Center is a resource for answering questions and concerns for all aspects of the IRIS program. You can also report incidents, receive help problem solving, ask questions about the Fiscal/Employer Agent and much more.

Fiscal/Employer Agent

The Fiscal/Employer Agent helps establish you as an employer, process your employee paperwork, conduct background checks and pay your workers. They also pay bills for IRIS services you receive, handle payroll taxes and withholdings, and provide you with monthly budget and spending reports for all items that are on your Individual Supports and Services Plan. If you have a cost share, the Fiscal/Employer Agent collects your payments.

Community Network Specialist

The Community Network Specialist works with people using IRIS to grow and expand their community network of supports. The Specialist assists vendors and other community organizations in conducting business or engaging with the IRIS community.

Quality Services Specialists

Quality Services Specialists hear and mediate your concerns about IRIS. They also work closely with the IRIS Ombudsman to resolve complaints and address complex situations. Quality Services Specialists are based in the Madison office of the IRIS Consultant Agency.

IRIS Ombudsman

The IRIS Ombudsman is an advocate and helper available to you through Disability Rights Wisconsin. They can answer questions about your benefits and rights; help resolve disagreements; investigate complaints; and assist in the appeals process through State Fair Hearing. Their services are free.

If you would like to resolve a concern, make a complaint, file a grievance or an appeal, you can contact the IRIS Ombudsman for assistance. They are there to listen to you and help find a solution.

IRIS Screener

A certified individual who gives annual long term-care functional screens and change-in-condition screens to IRIS Participants.

IRIS Timetable

How long does it take to enroll in IRIS? When can my workers start working? For answers to these questions, please see the Frequently Asked Questions page. The enrollment timetable will show you approximate time frames for most of the common events that occur in IRIS.

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