A few recent stories from the Legal Council, or visit the archives for more. After reading about the diverse clients we serve each day, please consider a donation so we can keep providing free legal assistance to individuals who have nowhere else to turn for help.
Jamie is in her twenties and has faced homelessness since the age of 12. She suffers from severe psychotic disorder and drug addiction, and has just a 7th-grade education. Over the past few years, Jamie has been in and out of prison. When not in prison, she has found shelter from Chicago’s brutal weather extremes in abandoned buildings throughout the city.
Our Homeless Outreach staff learned of Jamie’s situation and she agreed to meet with us while at a local hospital. Following that first meeting, we were able to secure Jamie’s medical and treatment records, which is the first big step toward a stable life for her. We then assisted her in filing for public benefits, which will help Jamie eventually get back on her feet. Also, she is now in a women’s treatment center. We have been making regular visits to the treatment center and are working collaboratively with the staff there toward the goal of securing medical insurance, long-term supportive housing , and some income for Jamie. While her claims are still pending, she is making significant progress. Jamie is now sober and receiving mental health care. We will continue to work with Jamie and fight on her behalf to ensure she has the opportunity to build a better life.
After learning that he was HIV-positive while hospitalized, Ashton told his mother and fiancé, but explicitly asked that hospital staff not discuss his HIV status when other family was present. Despite his clear requests, his status was openly discussed on three separate occasions when other members were around. One doctor apologized immediately, but another – who disclosed his status twice – simply joked about “the lawsuit” that Ashton and his family were going to file. The fines for these disclosures could be up to $20,000 for the doctor who did it twice – seemingly with intent – plus $5,000 for the negligent disclosure.
Ashton immediately filed a grievance with the patient advocate at the hospital, then turned to AIDS Legal Council. We drafted and sent a demand letter. How did the hospital respond? The doctors who clearly broke the law would face a board of physicians and staff, but no disciplinary measures were taken. They were simply told to “change their behavior.”
We decided to push even harder, meeting with hospital officials and explaining that the response was simply not good enough. Finally the hospital offered a settlement which closed the case. Still, as cut and dry as this case may have seemed, it took over nine months to resolve.
Rita is a single mother, struggling to care for her three children. Her eldest, Jessica, has cystic fibrosis – a chronic and life threatening disorder for which she must take five medications, including one that costs $30,000 a month. Then one day, Rita tries to get Jessica’s prescriptions refilled and learns that her Medicaid has been cut. Desperately she reapplies for coverage. In the meantime, the hospital where Jessica gets her care offers to cover the cost of her medicine until her Medicaid is reinstated.
But after five months with no response, Rita doesn’t know what to do. And when the hospital tries to get to the bottom of the delay, they come up empty-handed. It’s like Jessica’s new Medicaid application doesn’t even exist.
With time running out, the hospital puts Rita in touch with the Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children and asks us for help. Immediately, we get to work, making calls and discovering that the insurance application has been denied because a clerical error recorded Jessica’s age as 19 instead of 18, making her too old to be eligible.
Then realizing that Jessica’s birthday is, in fact, just a week away, we come up with another plan. We counsel Rita not to count her daughter as a dependent and let Jessica file her own application for Medicaid, as an adult. It works. Jessica submits her application, we demand that it be expedited, and 24 hours later, it’s approved. Jessica can now obtain her life-saving medications again.
IN ORDER TO KEEP HELPING CLIENTS LIKE ASHTON, JAMIE, AND RITA, THE LEGAL COUNCIL NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT. PLEASE CONSIDER A 100% TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION NOW. THANKS TO SUPPORTERS LIKE YOU, WE WILL BE HERE AS LONG AS WE ARE NEEDED.
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