Families fighting budget cuts in Illinois

A southern Illinois woman says she's losing the services she needs to take care of her disabled grandchild.

GREENVILLE, Ill. - A southern Illinois woman says she's losing the services she needs to take care of her disabled grandchild.

The state is planning to cut nursing services it has been paying for through Medicaid. But, some families are fighting back through a lawsuit against the state.

One of the children whose services are being reduced is 12-year-old Savannah Elam, of Greenville. Savannah has seizures at least once a month, is legally blind, incontinent, and has a feeding tube, among other issues. She needs help around the clock.

"Just constant care. I mean she cannot care for herself," Kim Elam, Savannah's grandmother and legal guardian, said.

After taking custody of Savannah, Kim quickly learned she couldn't handle all that care all on her own. Since 2008 the state has been paying for in-home nursing care. But earlier this year, Kim received a letter stating the state was eliminating funding for that care. The reason the letter gave was that "your child does not meet the requirements for skilled in-home shift nursing."

"I couldn't understand," Kim said.

And, neither could many of the 175 other Illinois families who got similar letters saying their services would be eliminated or reduced. Now, several of them are suing the state with the help of a Chicago-area attorney.

"These children's medical needs have not improved. To now say they don't need it, one can only draw the logical inference that the state's trying to save money," Attorney Robert Farley said.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services told NewsChannel 5 the department is trying to "determine need based on medical necessity and program structure, and cost reductions or any proposed budget cuts are not among the considerations."

"Their position that they do not need the nursing care is simply wrong," Farley said.

Some families say without nursing care, their children will end up in institutions.

"I don't want that for my child," said Kim.

She says that if she loses her nursing help, there will be only one other option.

"I'm going to be a prisoner in my own home," Kim said.

Farley has succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order barring the state from making the cuts until there's a decision regarding the suit. The case is due back in court May 12th.


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