LaChandra, Mia, Ashley and Aaliyah
At 21-years-old, LaChandra Noel was a bright, beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her. She was in college working on a criminal justice degree, modeling and on her way to the Miss America pageant. Then, in an instant, everything changed. At five and a half months pregnant, she was hospitalized and discovered that her twins, Ashley and Mia, had a condition known as cytomeglo virus. The virus left Ashley with severe mental, physical and medical impairments. She is unable to walk, feed or dress herself and has no communication skills. Mia was affected by the virus later on in her life and, over time, has lost a great deal of her hearing.
LaChandra’s husband began physically and psychologically abusing her. But, where does a mother who is expecting her third child and already has twins, one of whom has severe disabilities, go when her life is threatened? Initially, she moved in with her mother, but her husband continued to threaten her and physically attacked her. She filed charges against him and moved to a battered women’s shelter. The shelter was not set up for a family of four and particularly not for a child with a disability.
After the twins were born, LaChandra received social security benefits and, as required, she turned in her pay check stubs. It was not until a year later that LaChandra discovered that the benefits counselor had provided inaccurate information about required income thresholds. As a result, she had been overpaid and was required to pay back an entire year’s worth of benefits. She had to quit her job so she wouldn’t lose her Medicaid coverage for Ashley.
In 2006, while living in another shelter, Ashley’s name came up on the Medically Dependent Children Program (MDCP) waiting list. It took two months before anyone came to interview her and assess Ashley’s eligibility. During the visit, however, not only was LaChandra told she may not receive services because she was homeless, the service coordinator forgot to bring the nurse to conduct the assessment.
Finding a “real” home seemed out of reach at this time and Ashley was hospitalized due to illness, so LaChandra felt her only option was to place Ashley in a nursing facility. For the next two and a half months, she called every nursing facility on the list, but to no avail. During this time, she found a place for her family to live, but enrollment in MDCP was still pending with hopes of services ever starting beginning to fade. In fact, they never got MDCP services.
“Legislators need to know how important the Medicaid waiver programs are and that they need to be tailored to suit a family’s needs,” LaChandra said. “They can look good on paper, but not work in the community.”
Then, in January 2007, LaChandra was notified that Ashley’s name came up on the Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS) waiting list. By June, she was reenrolled and receiving services. She chose the Consumer Directed Services (CDS) option. Now that Ashley has the services she needs and the family has a home they can call their own, their longing for security and stability has been realized. Moreover, LaChandra, whose goals were put on hold many years ago, has since returned to work and is four classes away from graduating from college.