Intern Keisheona Wilkins: A key contributor in CareSource’s disability inclusion efforts

July 31st, 2023 | 3 min read

Erhardt Preitauer Keisheona Wilkins Care Source Health Alliance 1

CareSource, a nationally recognized nonprofit managed care organization, achieved a top score of 100 on the 2023 Disability Equality Index® (DEI), a leading benchmarking tool for disability inclusion in business, conducted jointly by Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. The DEI encourages companies to adopt concrete actions for promoting disability inclusion, with scores of 80 and above earning recognition as a "Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion."

CareSource's achievement reflects their strong commitment to fostering an inclusive culture and providing dedicated support for employees and members with disabilities, while continuously refining their disability inclusion approach.

A notable contributor to CareSource's disability inclusion initiatives is Keisheona Wilkins, an accomplished Complex Health Solutions Intern through the 2023 AAPD Summer Internship Program. Hailing from Topeka and a recent graduate in graphics technology from Washburn Tech, Keisheona's journey has been one of resilience and determination, overcoming challenges as a single mother paralyzed in a 2018 shooting incident.

Keisheona's personal experiences have deepened her dedication to advancing disability inclusion, especially in areas like affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is difficult to find something that is fit for a single family, let alone ADA compliant housing that is affordable,” said Keisheona. “This matter is significant to me personally because I am a person who depends on an electric wheelchair for mobilization, and I am a mother with three children. I have experienced the difficulties of finding a home that I can afford with my low income, that has accommodations for my wheelchair, and space for my kids.”

Solomon Parker, director of intellectual and developmental disabilities program strategy at CareSource, emphasized that Keisheona's experiences reflect the broader importance of businesses prioritizing disability inclusion. Parker commended CareSource's dedication to fostering an inclusive culture that values diverse perspectives, recognizing the immense value that individuals with disabilities bring to the table.

In June, CareSource announced the first strategic alliance of its kind – the CareSource HealthAlliance – to serve KanCare members and transform the health care experience for vulnerable Kansans. The CareSource HealthAlliance includes CareSource Kansas, InterHab, the Children’s Alliance and the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

Further displaying their commitment to disability support, CareSource recently committed over $2.5 million to Easterseals, with a focus on pioneering innovations for children and adults with disabilities nationwide, while also providing critical home and community-based services through Easterseals’ extensive network. CareSource CEO Erhardt Preitauer now serves on the national Easterseals board of directors, cementing their partnership.

In 2022, CareSource took significant strides in enhancing disability inclusion efforts by forging a partnership with The Harkin Institute, intensifying efforts to build a more inclusive workplace for both employees and members with disabilities.

Patrice L. Harris, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at CareSource, shared the organization's straightforward goals.

“Our goals are simple: to continue to strengthen our culture of belonging, attract, grow and retain diverse talent, and mature our approach and commitment to disability inclusion for both our employees and members,” said Harris.“The inclusion journey is never truly finished. We look forward to continuing this vital work with Disability:IN and the AAPD.”

Keisheona Wilkins' determination and talent exemplify the driving force behind CareSource's disability inclusion success, paving the way for an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals and their abilities.