This year's Walk to the Hill client speaker, Lisa, tells MetroBoston how legal aid saved her son's life. The story, which appeared on January 27, 2016, is reprinted in part below.
Civil legal aid probably saved Lisa’s son’s life.
That’s what the 55-year-old Medford mom will tell a crowd of lawyers on Thursday, when advocates gather to call for a massive boost in state funding for civil legal services for low-income residents.
Lisa, who asked Metro not to print her last name, said were it not for help from a Greater Boston Legal Services attorney, her son would have lost his MassHealth coverage and access to methadone, the drug that has helped him stay mostly sober for more than three years.
If his supply had been abruptly cut short, she said, he more likely than not would have started using heroin again.
“He told me, ‘If I get kicked off the methadone you might as well just bury me,’” Lisa said.
At another time, Lisa’s family could have paid for her son’s methadone without MassHealth. She used to work in real estate and at the time had enough leftover that she could spend thousands on sending her son to detox, to rehab facilities, to doctors and to counseling during his decade-long bout with addiction.
Then came her breast cancer diagnosis, more than a dozen surgeries, and a long time without working. Without healthcare, she wouldn’t have been able to afford to buy the medication (and the drug counseling and other services) on her husband’s salary alone, she said. The process to appeal MassHealth’s decision would be expensive. They certainly couldn’t afford a lawyer.
So fearing what might happen if coverage lapsed, she tried sorting out the issue on her own. She called MassHealth over and over, and said she kept showing up at the agency’s offices in Taunton and Tewksbury.
“Six weeks of hell,” she called it. “Every person I spoke with gave me a different answer.”
Things changed when she got in touch with an attorney at GBLS who knew about the system. The lawyer called MassHealth and deduced the problem: an issue with a tax document. No big deal. And like that, everything was resolved.
“Within one conversation she had the whole thing fixed,” Lisa said. “I nearly fainted.”
Lisa, who told Metro she doesn’t believe herself a great public speaker, will nevertheless be telling her story to hundreds on Thursday. She said she owes it to GBLS to spread the word and wants others to get the same help she received.
“My point is if I didn’t call,” she said. “I still would have been running around, chasing my tail, going crazy, stressed out of my mind and I don’t know where [my son] would have been.”
To read Lisa's entire story, click here.