James Madison Park Converted into Hawaii by Phil Porter

Options is part of a well-established service system providing support to adults with developmental disabilities in Dane County, Wisconsin. As a supported living provider we assist people to find and keep a home of their own in the community. The home may be in an apartment, a townhouse, a condo or a single family house. Most of the people we support rent but some are homeowners.

Along with assisting people to find a place to live, Options provides the support and assistance people need to be successful in their own community. This support is individualized and can take many forms. John O’Brien, a consultant and good friend of Options, once described support as “walking through life with people.” Life, as we all know, can be unpredictable, messy, complicated, fun, exhilarating and stressful.

Options sticks with people through it all and finds challenge and reward in all the lessons life has to offer.

Who does Options Support

The 110 or so people supported by Options are a varied group of individuals. Some are relatively new to us and we continue to learn about their lives and support needs, while others have been supported since Options inception and have helped write our organizational story.

In order to receive support, an individual must be 18 years old, reside in Dane County and have a developmental disability. The support we provide is long-term and as a result, there is stability in who is served from year to year. When we do have capacity to offer additional services, referrals are made by Dane County Adult Community Services or by support brokers for individuals who are directing their own services.

Currently, Options supports 110 people ranging in age from 20 to 90. Ninety percent of the people supported by Options experience some degree of intellectual disability. Other disabilities experienced by the group of people supported by Options include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, acquired brain injury, mental illness, hearing impairment and Autism; many individuals have multiple and significant disabilities.

How we help

Harvest by Donna Dillon

Options staff provide or arrange whatever assistance a person needs in order to live successfully in the community. Options helps each person to identify his/her personal needs and preferences and to organize ways to meet those needs. This may include help in finding and selecting housing or roommates, in arranging for live-in support, hiring and training support workers, providing personal care assistance, making sure that medical needs are addressed in a timely manner, furnishing and moving into a new apartment, or in gaining access to community resources for transportation, employment, leisure-time or financial assistance. It may involve advocating with other service agencies who provide services to the person. It often entails teaching skills in home maintenance, shopping, money management, meal planning, health, and self-care.

Options’ believes that we are able to provide our most effective assistance to individuals when we develop a relationship with the person being supported. Through that relationship, we are able to effectively offer suggestions, a “friendly ear”, or companionship to help people make decisions, solve problems and develop satisfying social activities and relationships. Options staff also provide a variety of types of practical help with the complexities of everyday living and in times of emergency or crisis. Options provides staff support 24 hours per day, if needed, and has staff on-call at all times that the office is closed.

Options supports some individuals through assistance from paid roommates, with support ranging from less than one hour per day to 24-hour support. Some individuals live alone or with peer roommates, with varying degrees of come-in staff support ranging from visits several times per day, to weekly visits, or as needed.

Community Building

Phil Porter was born in 1946 in Madison, Wisconsin. Phil was institutionalized at Southern Wisconsin Colony in Racine between the ages of 8 and 21 because of cognitive disabilities, seizures and hyperactivity. He began creating art in 1978 as a way to get away from people and the noise of life. As he says, “Art is therapy for me. It creates a whole new world.”
Phil likes to say that he has sold more paintings than van Gogh (and he still has both ears). His work can be seen at local coffee shops in Madison, and in Madison’s City/County Building. Phil also participates in the annual Art Fair on the Square, other art festivals, exhibits and galleries. You can learn more about Phil and his art by visiting
  • Phil is an artist, who has had several successful art exhibitions in local galleries. He has met new friends through sharing his art, and he has gained the respect of many in the local art community.
  • Terry has found a group of friends through participation in a local church where he rarely misses a Sunday service.
  • Pat joined Dane County Timebank and is making new connections through his volunteer work.

The above descriptions are all examples of the outcomes of Options’ work to increase the community involvement of people we are supporting. Assisting people who have been kept apart from community life to rediscover interests, gifts, and possible contributions has also helped members of the larger community to demonstrate hospitality toward people with disabilities.

Options continues to learn about how to assist people to build and re-build connections to community. We know that it works to have a staff position dedicated to this aspect of our mission, but we have also learned that a commitment to community building must be part of each staff person’s job. Organizational commitment to community building takes many forms, and requires Options to regularly reflect on the use of available resources. Are we properly focused toward community? Are we consciously seeking opportunities for people we support to be connected to their neighborhood and their neighbors? Are we taking time to notice existing relationships that may be strengthened and built on?

If you’re interested in getting to know someone supported by Options, please view volunteer opportunities to see some of the exciting opportunities that are offered. To learn more about these and the many other possibilities that are available, please contact Emma Czarapata at

Self-directed Services

Dane County provides services to people with developmental disabilities through a self-directed services model. Working with a Support Broker of their choice, each individual has the opportunity to purchase the services they need from provider agencies or through generic services. Dane County has adopted this model as a means to shift the power that comes from controlling the use of service dollars directly to the individuals who are receiving services, and away from funders and providers of services. Through this process, Dane County hopes to increase individual satisfaction with services while decreasing the cost of service provision.

Options has been a part of the ongoing learning about self directed services in our county. As of October 2003, all people supported by Options participate in self-directed services.

Assisting each person to identify support needs and life dreams is a part of our support. Regardless of how the money flows to pay for the services provided, Options holds the belief that individuals receiving services need to be in control of what, and how, services are provided to them. We continue to learn from people we support about how to share the power that comes from our connections to each other.

How we are funded

Options in Community Living is a private, non-profit 501(c)3 organization, governed by a community-based volunteer Board of Directors.

Private support

People supported by Options pay for their own housing and living expenses with income from Social Security, SSI and employment.

Options also raises money through private fundraising campaigns that generate less than 1% of our annual operation budget.

Government support

Funding for Options services is provided through a combination of county, state and federal funds which are administered through the Dane County Department of Human Services. Medicaid waivers are one of the primary sources of revenue funding developmental disability services in Dane County. A Medicaid Waiver is a stream of federal, state and local money which redirects funds from facility to community-based services. In addition, Dane County leads other counties in the state of Wisconsin in the percentage of the county budget dedicated to human services.

Another source of funding is the Medical Assistance Personal Care (MAPC) Program. Individuals are assessed to determine the number of hours of daily personal care they are eligible to receive through this Medical Assistance fee for service program. Options provides MAPC services under a contract with Dane County.

Through the Dane County Self-Directed Services Program, each individual eligible for services is assessed and given an Individual Services Budget. With the assistance of a Support Broker, each individual then shops for and purchases needed services within that budget.

For more information about services for adults with developmental disabilities in Dane County, visit the county website at

Public Disclosure Copy 2018