State health department awards Ryan Coller grant to enhance goal-setting processes during Individualized Service Planning within the Children’s Long-Term Support waiver program

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) awarded Ryan Coller, MD, MPH, associate professor and chief, Division of Hospital Medicine, a $153,073 grand to expand the use of and enhance goal-setting processes during Individualized Service Planning within the Children’s Long-Term Support waiver program. This will be accomplished through an innovative online application used by families who have children with disabilities. The grant is part of a statewide effort intended to improve Medicaid home and community-based services that help older adults and people who have disabilities. A total of $12.75 million is being awarded to 91 organizations statewide during this round of funding.

Coller’s project, “Creating Goals for Children,” centers around an online application, available in both English and Spanish, that guides families through meaningful goal setting for their children. The prototype version was developed with families to support goal setting without the unintended influence of various services providers and move toward deeper answers to the question, What are your goals for your child?

With Creating Goals for Children, families can, in the comfort of their own home and with their children’s involvement, create their own or select from many examples of goals divided into five categories: communication; home and family; community, social, and school; independence; and medical and health. After selections, the system creates a customized document for the family that lists the goals they selected or created, as well as tailored responses to follow-up questions and a list of next steps with Wisconsin-based resources matched to each goal.

This process repositions goal setting as a child/family-centered activity rather than a service-centered activity motivated by the need to create goals post-hoc to access support and services. By achieving the following four objectives, this project has the potential to increase access to home and community-based services for approximately 16,000 Medicaid beneficiaries:

  • Objective 1: Develop a subset of specific goals for two distinct age/developmental groups: very young children (0-3) and children transitioning to adulthood (14-21).
  • Objective 2: Spread use of the goal card online application to families through training and marketing.
  • Objective 3: Integrate high-definition photos of children with disabilities from a variety of cultures throughout Wisconsin into the goal-setting tools.
  • Objective 4: Develop a freely available mobile version from the online goal-setting application.

Coller noted that, “Although we aspire to center care for children with disabilities around individualized goals, the process of identifying the most meaningful and relevant goals is much harder for families and providers than one might expect.

“The ‘Creating Goals for Children’ program puts this process back in the ownership of families, where it belongs,” he continued. “This tool has great potential to improve the value, efficiency, and consistency of goal setting across service providers and over time.”

The grant funding was made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). To learn more about this opportunity and other funded projects, visit the DHS website. Questions about these awards or ARPA funding can be sent to the DHS media team at