The Knuckleheads of the Day award
Today's winners are Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities and Maximus Inc. They get the award for the following.
Kevin Estinfil is a badly disabled kid. He has severe cerebral palsy, is blind, has a shunt in his brain to drain excess fluid and has daily seizures. And his body can't control its own temperature.This is sick. Instead of helping a sick child for $360 a year, the State of Florida is spending thousands on lawyers to fight it. What a racket, corporations and lawyers who get paid by the government while the citizens of the state get screwed.
Kevin, who is 12, can get as cold as 93 or 94 degrees, and he can't communicate when he feels pain or discomfort.
What would help keep Kevin warm, his doctors say, are special thermal blankets, which cost $10 each. He needs about three a month, for a cost of about $360 a year.
But for more than a year, the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities has refused to pay for them. The blankets, they say, ``have not been determined to be medically necessary.''
To make its case, the state has racked up thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting Kevin, who lost an appeal before a state hearing officer and is now appealing to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami-Dade.
'I keep thinking, `It's a blanket. It's not like he's asking for a car,' '' said Lizel Gonzalez, Kevin's lawyer at Legal Services of Greater Miami. ``Give the kid a blanket. His life is hard enough.''
JoAnn Carrin, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charlie Crist's office, which has represented the disabilities agency during some of the litigation, declined to discuss Kevin's case. ''This is ongoing litigation, and I wouldn't be able to comment on specifics,'' she said.
Lindsay Hodges, a spokeswoman for the disabilities agency, said she, too, could not discuss Kevin's case in detail. But, she added, agency officials were reviewing the case late Tuesday in an effort to determine whether more could be done to help the boy.
''We are concerned when any family feels their needs are not being adequately met,'' Hodges said.
``We are exploring other options that may be able to provide this service to this family.''
BABY HOUSE IS HOME
Ninety pounds and chubby-cheeked, Kevin lives with 14 other severely disabled children at a specialized group home in North Miami Beach called Baby House, which is run by United Cerebral Palsy.
He has lived there since 1999. His caregivers feed him through a tube in his stomach. They drain his tracheostomy and take his temperature constantly.
Kevin's condition worsened a couple of years ago when he suffered a series of severe seizures, which led to even more brain damage. Kevin brightens when his mother and sisters -- whose voices he recognizes -- come for a visit.
''Kevin is a severely disabled child,'' said one of his doctors, Julio Casas, who works at Baby House. ''He has a severe seizure disorder, and just about anything can set him off.'' Including getting cold, Casas added.
On Tuesday, Kevin -- dressed in blue jeans, a yellow, black and white jacket and matching ski cap -- slept in his wheelchair as teachers and aides cut and pasted paper snowflakes with other children in the home.
One little girl spoke of her excitement about a trip today to Santa's Enchanted Forest.
Alliance Home Care, a medical supply company that provides equipment to Baby House, has been giving Kevin thermal blankets free of charge -- along with diapers, feeding supplements, sterile water for his breathing tube and other equipment the state did agree to pay for but hasn't, said Carol Montiel, the nurse who runs Baby House.
''They are not getting paid,'' Montiel said. ``Not one penny this year.''
Kevin's caregivers also asked APD to pay for extra surgical masks for the nurses and doctors who care for him. The price tag for the masks: $288 per year.
''Kevin's condition is medically complex,'' one of his doctors, Antonio Rodriguez, wrote to APD. ``He has a compromised immune system and is highly susceptible to infection . . . His risk for contracting infection is greatly increased because he lives with almost a dozen children, all of whom are severely physically and mentally disabled.''
APD SAYS NO
APD denied the money the masks.
''The documentation submitted does not indicate that Kevin has a compromised immune system,'' agency officials wrote.
But, in a rare move, a state hearing officer, Robert Akel, overruled the agency and allowed payments for the masks following a June 12 hearing.
Montiel said she spends a lot of time testifying on behalf on the 15 kids she cares for. ''Last week,'' Montiel said, ``I was in court three times. It's a lot of time.''
The review of Kevin's care plan was made by an employee of Maximus Inc., a private company that is under contract with the state to help lower costs in the state's developmental disabilities program.
The worker never examined Kevin, or even met him, records show, because the contract doesn't require it.
Nor had he spoken with Kevin's mother or doctors before the June hearing.
After a big public outrage caused by yesterday's Herald article, Governor elect Charlie Crist ordered an immediate halt to the litigation and ADF will produce the blankets for Kevin. Great news for the Estinfil family but you just have to wonder how many more cases of bureaucratic stupidy similiar to this are going on with ADF. I make a bet there are many more.
Maximus Inc and ADP are still no more than thieves. Robbing from either the citizens or a disabled child and for that they are today's Knuckleheads of the Day.
Rick at SOTP and Bob at The Daily Pulp also blogged on this news.
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