Friday, December 10, 2010

Times Are Really, I Mean Really Bad

Well, today I got the letter from The Department of Social and Health Services. I would love to tell you in detail what was in it, but I ripped it up because I was horrified. The most horrifying section pertained to children with disabilties. The state will no longer pay for the following services to disabled children: occupational therapy; physical therapy; nursing; speech therapy; psychological assessments; and audiology screenings (which just leads to speech problems that won't get treated anymore anyway) among other things.

Glasses are no longer paid for. My independent pharmacy reports supplies for diabetes patients are slashed out of the budget. The letter went on and on really. No more co-pays for anyone on Medicare Part D, the prescription portion of the Medicare program. So basically no assistance with prescriptions for the elderly or disabled who are low income.

At first I was angry. Then I cried. Then I talked to some friends and family. Then I remembered what it was like for me when I taught special education. When I had my first contract in a public school, I had no books, not a single computer, no assistant in my classroom, about twenty to twenty five kids per class, and a budget of five hundred dollars for the entire school year. I had kids with seizure disorders, violent tempers, developmental problems, and one who was so poor he had no running water in his home. Someone recently told me he should have been pulled from that home. "Really?" I said, "because his father was a disabled Vietnam veteran we should have further punished the family by yanking the kid into some horrifying foster care circumstance?" Worse yet, I was sent to a portable classroom which isolated all of us from the main campus.

Have things gotten any better since that first teaching contract in 1995? I am not sure. It depends where you go. Some school districts are highly funded. Some parents can pay for the services that other parents cannot. But mostly we are sinking into a widening class split. And we are turning on one another. I personally cannot do social work jobs anymore. It's just too heartbreaking for me and with my health problem (multiple sclerosis) it is just short of insanity for me to even try. I am very close to tossing my television into the alley where they sit for months and months and no one collects them. However, I do not live alone and this is not a choice I can make. I lived for two years once with no television and internet access was not as available as it is now. It seems to me I did a lot of art projects.

I had a co-worker, a dedicated teacher, who quit teaching and went to live in a cabin with no electricity for a time. That's pretty much what social work can do to one's soul. I lost touch with her. She was an amazing person. I have no idea if my MS medication will be funded anymore. I have to wait until January because my pharmacist is so confused by the changes. I have spent most of my working life fighting battles for others. Now I have no choice but to fight for myself. At a cost of $3,178 per month for the MS drug, I will have to make an appeal to the pharmaceutical company itself if my coverage is impacted. Again, neither my pharmacist or I know if the state has been making payments on my behalf or what that amount may be. The MS society sent out an alarm e-mail. They think they can somehow impact the legislature. I don't think so. I think it's a done deal. Too bad if you're hit with the disability stick in this, the reportedly wealthiest nation in the world. The help is gone. It's just gone. And I don't think it's coming back. Not today I don't think that. And unless someone hits me on the head with an optimism stick, I may never think that again. --Alison Whiteman

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