2016 Pro Bono Honor Roll

Pro Bono Announcement Template Header2016 Pro Bono Honor Roll

The Mecklenburg Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte is pleased to recognize our committed pro bono attorneys who donated at least 20 hours of service or closed three or more cases for our clients in 2016.

Congratulations and thank you to the dedicated legal professionals listed below. Each of you has played a key role in helping our agencies provide access to justice to low-income clients in our community.

* Attorneys who have fulfilled the requirements of NC Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 and have completed 50 or more hours of pro bono service this year

Jeffrey W. Aldrich

Stephen D. Allred*

A. Carter Arey*

Andrew David Atkins

Keith F. Atkinson

Neil T. Bloomfield

William B. Butler*

Rocky Mamerto Cabagnot*

John H. Capitano

Jon P. Carroll

Caitlin A. Carson

Ronald Charlot-Aviles*

Kimberly Nicole Cochran*

Glenda F. Coleman

Clay Reid Costner

Casey Leanne Couch

E. Christopher Cox

Lisa Marie Crandall

Matthew H. Crow*

Heather W. Culp*

Kevin Louis Denny

Jessica Camille Dixon

Kathleen H. Dooley*

Courtney Michelle Duncil*

Jonathan Ashley Ellis*

Jason D. Evans

Douglas W. Ey, Jr.

Jeffrey Ryan Favitta

John C. Fennebresque

Christopher J. Fernandez*

Jennifer Lynn Fleet

Christopher Thomas Fowler

Gonzalo E. Frias

Kaylan Marie Gaudio

Timothy W. Gilbert

Kimberly A. Gossage

Joshua K. Green

James E. Gronquist*

Alton L. Gwaltney, III

Robert J. Hahn*

Matthew Frederick Hanchey

Nicole Katherine Haynes

Mark P. Henriques*

Johan Alejandro Hernandez

James E. Hickmon*

Christopher A. Hicks

Sara S. Holderness

Thomas P. Holderness*

Katherine S. Holliday

Jennifer Michelle Houti

Sarah Fulton Hutchins

Travis James Iams

Elizabeth Jeanne Ireland

Donna J. Jackson

David H. Jones

Stephen W. Kearney

Matthew Sean Kelly

Deja Dorothy Kemp*

Kristen J. Kenley

Glenn E. Ketner III

Katherine Kliebert*

Bradley R. Kutrow*

Rene Jean LeBlanc-Allman

Tracey Mitchell LeRoy

Jennifer M. Lechner*

Anne S. Leggett

Timothy P. Lendino*

Howard M. Lintz*

Hannah Faith Little

Lauren Bowman Llamas

Andrew Francis Lopez

Carlos Andres Lopez

Karol P. Mack

Catherine Lafferty Magennis

Robert William Manoso*

Jasmine C. Marchant*

Michael Leon Martinez*

Emily Claire McGowan

Thomas E. McNeill*

Samuel Clinton Merritt

Eric William Mills

Clayton D. Morgan

Elizabeth Ann Murphy*

Lara Simmons. Nichols

My T. Ngo

Nikolas Rafael Ortega

Brian Patrick O’Shaughnessy*

Fred P. Parker, IV

Andrew Rhys Parrish

Fern Ann Paterson

Amanda Rae Pickens*

Stuart Logan Pratt

Nader S. Raja

Gary Lee Redwine

Garry S. Rice

Michelle Donahue Robinson*

Brent A. Rosser*

Frank E. Schall

Marie C.  Shea*

Bobby Singh

Ella-Marie Smith

Benjamin A. Snyder

Brian A. Soja

Michelle Lynn Stalnaker

Larissa Bixler Stein

William Todd Stillerman

Edward Taylor Stukes

Susan C. Tarnower*

Michelle R. Thompson

Joseph Trunzo*

Scott P. Vaughn

Ann Lee Warren*

Lisa Jan Wielunski*

John R. Wester*

Nicholas F. Wilson

Landis L. Wood

Nancy M. Wright

Angela H. Zimmern*

Erik R. Zimmerman*

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There’s No Place Like Home

picket-letter-fade-quoteWhen Debra Pickett’s husband, Gregory, passed away in 2011, she was devastated. She says she “didn’t know [her] head from [her] feet,” of that period. Through her grief, Pickett sought to move forward, getting used to life without her husband.

Six months later, Pickett learned that the bank where her husband had previously set up a reverse mortgage on their home was trying to assume ownership of the house now that her husband, the owner, had died.

A reverse mortgage is a home loan for older homeowners that allows them to convert the equity in their homes to cash and requires no monthly mortgage payments, though the borrower remains responsible for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. The bank makes payments to the borrower, and the borrower is not required to pay back the loan until the home is sold or vacated.

Pickett was shocked when she was served with eviction notices.

debra_pickett_092816_001To her, that house was more than shelter. It offered her stability and comfort with all of the memories housed from 10 happy years of marriage shared with her husband.

Pickett, a woman of faith, believes God had a hand in leading her to Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. She remembers going to the courthouse to attempt to sort out the situation herself, after being told by the Veteran’s Administration, which had been handling her husband’s benefits, that there was nothing she could do to remain in her home. Feeling confused, scared and frustrated with her situation, she began to cry.

A courthouse employee handed Pickett a piece of paper with three names written on it and suggested she seek help. Karen Moscowitz, director of consumer protection at LSSP, was one of those names, and she answered Pickett’s call. Pickett didn’t know what to expect on the other end of the line, but she was desperate. She had been trying to find a part-time job to make ends meet.

Read a letter Pickett sent LSSP executive director Ken Schorr.

“When I went to Karen, I didn’t have a penny in my pocket,” Pickett says. “[Karen] said, ‘I don’t know what the outcome will be or how long it will take, but if you would be patient enough, I’ll try to see what the end result will be.’”

Patience was necessary. Over three years, Moscowitz went back and forth with the bank, meeting with Pickett every two months for updates. During that time, Pickett continued to pay taxes and insurance on the home, and the bank continued to charge her for loan repayment.

“She was always professional, always a sweet lady,” Pickett says of Moscowitz. “She’s been a jewel for me.”

In the summer of 2016, Pickett finally received the message she had been praying for – an email from Moscowitz saying that Pickett could remain in her home and that the bank would repay the money it had charged.

“I was ecstatic,” she says.

A few months later, Pickett finds herself sitting in her living room, the television in the kitchen on in the background, surrounded by photos of her and her husband over the years. She is at peace.

She points to the front door.

“When I come in that door, I’m in my sanctuary,” Pickett says. “It is my home. I thank God that I can continue living here.”

Legal Services of Southern Piedmont helps clients like Debra Pickett find stability and safety every day. With your continued support, LSSP can serve those who are vulnerable in our community and need free legal services to remain in their homes, with access to the safety, benefits, healthcare and, ultimately, the justice they are entitled to receive.

Your gift to the Access to Justice Campaign allows more people living on the edge of poverty to find safety and economic stability and to live healthy, productive lives.

Be a leader by supporting Access to Justice in your community today.

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After the 2016 elections, LSSP Reaffirms Its Commitment

The 2016 Election results were surprising to many of us. In this time of transition, LSSP will continue the work we have done in Charlotte since 1967 – being a voice for the voiceless in the legal system, securing basic human needs, and advocating for policies that provide positive outcomes for all.
We hope that this new administration will make decisions after careful consideration of policies that shape our social safety net and protect our clients and the most vulnerable people in our community.
The newly elected president, Congress and our state government have presented a picture of sweeping reforms that, if enacted, would harm thousands of people in our community. Changes would impact the
  • Benefits to individuals accessing healthcare through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act;
  • Financial stability for veterans and the low-income community through public benefits;
  • Security and stability of our immigrant communities; and
  • Affordability of housing.
The work we do to protect access to these programs and more is crucial to the vitality of our city, state and country now more than ever. Restricting or eliminating these programs would place more stress on the public resources that are already in high demand in Mecklenburg County.
We hope that policy makers at local, state and national levels will consider the severe impact their decisions could have on their constituents that Legal Services of Southern Piedmont serves every day.
People who seek our assistance have no right to an attorney in civil legal matters, even when basic human needs such as economic security and opportunity, family safety and stability, and access to healthcare are at stake. While meeting the needs for our clients may become more difficult in the coming years, we will continue to pursue justice for those in need.

Thank you for your continued support.
Ken Schorr
Executive Director
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Pro Bono Spotlight: Bambi Lohr

bambi_lohr_duke_energy_quoteBambi Lohr is a senior paralegal at Duke Energy Corporation, working in the litigation department. Since joining Duke Energy in 2010, Lohr has made pro bono work an integral part of her job. Lohr has worked on immigration cases, expunctions, and preparation of simple estate planning documents. Most recently, Lohr worked on a “children crossing borders” immigration case with LSSP, which led to her first immigration client being granted permanent custody of her minor daughter. Lohr is one of six individuals and three law firms recognized as 2016’s Pro Bono Award recipients.

When did you begin working on pro bono cases with LSSP?

I first started working with LSSP in 2010 and 2011. Duke Energy previously had not put a lot of time into a pro bono program. It wasn’t until 2010 that they started to formulate a pro bono effort for the legal department company-wide.

Why did you choose to start doing pro bono work?

It was something I was interested in doing. It was just going out and finding things we could do to help the community. I had worked in law firms in the past, and yes, we talked about pro bono, but I wasn’t that involved. The emphasis was on attorneys. Here, I have a part to play.

You’ve given a lot of time to the Access to Pro Bono Partners Program as a paralegal. Do paralegals have the same professional responsibility to volunteer as attorneys?

Paralegals have the same guidelines. We’re held to that same standard, but when you’re in a firm, pro bono tends to be pushed on the attorneys. It’s more inclusive here at Duke. It’s not just attorneys held to account. Everyone is expected to play a part.

How does pro bono differ from other forms of volunteer work?

I have always been drawn to this work because I feel like I’m actually making a difference here. I’ve done estate planning for over 13 years. One of the first events I volunteered at was called “Wills for Heroes,” for emergency services personnel. It was so rewarding. There are folks that need this service, and it’s free. You just walk away thinking how great that is. In this line of work, you see that impact of having those documents prepared.

What made you decide to take on a pro bono child custody immigration case?

I wanted to challenge myself. Immigration is not a simple form. There are processes, court dates, steps that you must follow. You’re very engaged with the client. It wasn’t until LSSP asked me to get involved did I realize the impact I was making. When I met Genesis, I realized she is the same age as my son. It’s a whole world you can’t grasp until you walk in their shoes.

The first one, you sit down and think, ‘Oh my gosh, how many do we need to help?’ I would tell anyone don’t shy away from it. You realize how helpful you can be once you get into it.


Genesis and her mother (center) with their pro bono attorneys Timika Shafeek-Horton and Ann Warren, of Duke Energy.

The day were finally able to help her mother get custody – that was an emotional day for everyone. Genesis was finally safe with her mother. That was extremely rewarding.

I still keep up with the family. I have their next court date later this month on my radar. That’s the next big step. I have stayed in contact even though my part is finished, but until you get that “OK” from an immigration judge can you say, “She’s safe.” Genesis came when she was 9, and two years later, here we are.

What current pro bono projects are you working on?

I just finished up helping with the Wills for Seniors event two weeks ago, and I am currently working on my second child custody immigration case.

What advice would you give to someone considering getting involved in the Access to Justice Pro Bono Program?

It can be challenging to find something that fits a niche you are comfortable with, but it can be done. But also, dip a toe in and try something different, like immigration, that’s out of your comfort zone. Then anything else that comes your way you know you can handle.

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Navigating the Gap: Tim Messenger


 ***UPDATED Nov. 30, 2016***

When we first met Tim last spring, he was struggling in the Medicaid gap like 300,000 other N.C. residents. He had no income, and he couldn’t qualify for health care through Medicaid because he had no children or qualifying disabilities.

Because he spent years without access to preventative care that could have managed his Type 2 Diabetes, Tim’s eyesight has deteriorated enough for him to demonstrate that he has a disability, and he qualified for Social Security disability benefits this fall.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he was able to use his Social Security income to apply for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace and receive a tim-messenger-acasubsidy. Before the ACA, people like Tim found themselves in a different gap — living month-to-month on a tiny Social Security check with few other options for support.

Yesterday, a LSSP health insurance navigator helped Tim enroll in a plan with a premium that costs $30.42 a month and includes coverage for his ophthalmologist to perform a necessary surgery on his eyes. He also signed up for a dental plan.

Your support of the work LSSP does makes these tangible impacts on people’s lives possible.

During a time when the future of our country’s healthcare system is uncertain, people like Tim, who have already spent years struggling to access health care, are more vulnerable now than ever. Access to coverage matters. LSSP is committed to helping people like Tim and will continue to advocate for policies that enable them to receive the care they need.


For most of his adult life, Tim Messenger worked in operations management and hademployer-provided health insurance, but in January 2014, Tim was laid off from his position as inventory manager.

The same week he was laid off, Tim’s mortgage company notified him that they were not going to continue working with him and his now ex-wife as they were trying to sell their house as part of a divorce. His neighborhood property values had been hit hard by the recession and, after 20 years of house payments, his property value was half the initial purchase price.

Tim also began to lose weight, but given the stress of losing his job, going through a divorce and trying to sell his home, he didn’t think much of it. He also began to notice trouble with his vision, but he couldn’t afford to see a doctor.

“I knew it was more serious than needing new glasses,” Tim says.

Promising job prospects with benefits did not materialize; Tim’s unemployment benefits ran out, and he found himself relying on the goodwill of friends and family for a place to stay, but by February 2015, Tim was living out of his van, looking for work by day and trying to find a safe place to park at night and sleep a few hours at a time.

“I was pursuing jobs and thought health insurance was right around the corner, and it never panned out,” Tim says.

“You fall into a survival mode,” he says of that period.

His eyesight continued to get worse until it ultimately caused him to have two car accidents in 2015, one in May, the other in July, which totaled his van.

Those accidents were a turning point for Tim.

A visit to the Bethesda Health Center, a free clinic in Mecklenburg County operating in part with the Camino Community Center, led to an appointment with a retina specialist along with the unexpected diagnosis that Tim had Type 2 Diabetes.  The clinic connected him with the N.C. Division of Services for the Blind, who covered laser surgery on his retina.  His recovery has been hampered by complications requiring repeated injections in his eyes, while his eye condition and inability to heal has been exacerbated by poor circulation resulting from diabetes.

“I just figured that after four to five months, things would be relatively back to normal,” he says. “Now it’s been almost a year.”

Tim had fallen prey to a situation that is far too common for middle-aged, single men, with low or no income.  Victims of an economic downturn and unemployment beyond their control, financial stability slips away and untreated health problems can quickly turn into complex and irreversible illnesses with life-changing ramifications. With preventative care and earlier diagnoses of his ailments, he may have been able to avoid the auto accidents and surgery and managed his diabetes so that he could continue to work and take care of his needs.

Tim has tried to get on with his life by looking for work. His previous jobs required a high degree of physical activity, but nerve damage resulting from diabetes and injuries suffered from the car accidents prevent him from seeking the same type of work.  Also, with his diminished vision, he can’t see a computer screen to search and apply for jobs online.

Tim, a man of faith, believes that everything happens for a reason. Friends from his church, Camino Church, became concerned and offered him a place to stay in May 2015. For the last year, he has relied on the church’s support, and he has been volunteering in the Camino Thrift Store, applying his background in retail to help where he can.

Last spring a health insurance navigator from Legal Services of Southern Piedmont working at Bethesda helped Tim apply for Medicaid, and in July, he applied for Social Security Disability benefits, which he recently learned he was qualified to receive.

Before this news, Tim was one of 300,000 people in North Carolina who fall into the Medicaid coverage gap, ineligible for Medicaid because he had no children or qualifying disabilities and he earned too little to qualify for tax credits that would help him afford insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Tim’s qualification for disability benefits was a huge hurdle to clear because proof of having a disability is often a difficult, long process. But because Tim has spent the last two years in the Medicaid gap, his health has deteriorated enough for him to demonstrate that he clearly has a disability.

If he had been able to access both the preventative and immediate care he needed in the first place through Medicaid coverage, Tim would have his eyesight and be in better health. He could have been looking for another job instead of trying to piece together care he needed.

Qualifying for disability benefits makes him ineligible to qualify for Medicaid now, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he now has the option to apply for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Prior to the ACA, people like Tim found themselves in a different gap — living month-to-month on a tiny social security check with few other options for support.

With what seems like a fresh start ahead of him, Tim is hopeful that he will eventually be able to regain his eyesight with the right treatment. He still wants to find a job and get his own place where he can live independently again. He also hopes to use his experience to help others keep going when life takes an unfortunate turn.

“God allows you to go through things for a reason,” he says. “So you can help others go through it.”

Read more about Tim’s story in this Charlotte Observer article to see how his situation fits into the greater context of Medicaid expansion, as well as the upcoming election Nov. 8.

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LSSP Wants You to Know Your Rights: VOTE 11.08.2016!

There’s been a few changes regarding how to vote in this year’s general election being held Nov. 8. Find out what you need (and don’t need, like a photo ID) before heading to the polls on Election Day.

Key Dates:

Oct. 14: Deadline for registering to vote in 2016 election. Voter registration must by postmarked by this date. Learn how to register here

Oct. 20: Early voting begins. Same-day registration to vote is only available during early voting. Find a polling place here

Nov. 5: Early voting ends.

Nov. 8: General Election Day

2016 Voting Information

Benefits of Early Voting

Voting Tips

NC Voter’s Bill of Rights

Check your registration status, polling place, local ballot, early voting locations and more at www.ncvoter.org

Como Votar en Carolina del Norte

Additional questions? Call the toll free Election Protection hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683)

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Sharika Shropshire Featured in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Report

Isharika-charlotte-housingmmigrant Justice Project director and attorney Sharika Shropshire is featured in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership’s (CMHP) 2016 annual report, “The M Factor,” focusing on access to affordable housing in Charlotte. In the report, Shropshire, who is also a member of the CMHP board, discusses why upward mobility is essential for a community’s viability, pointing out that many of her clients at LSSP struggle to find housing that is both below market rates for rent and up to housing codes, while many also fall victim to predatory landlord practices.

“If the very essential needs of shelter and safety are not met, progression beyond that is virtually impossible,” Shropshire says in the report.

Read the full report here

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Pro Bono Spotlight: Jordan Forsythe

jordan-forsythe-pb-spotlight-9-16Jordan Forsythe opened Forsythe Immigration Law in 2009. Seven years later, her desire to do pro bono work remains strong as she’s seen a lot of changes for immigrant communities in Charlotte and abroad.

How did you get into immigration law?
“I found myself as a single mom with two kids. My roommate was from Venezuela. We shared expenses and the goal was that her daughter could come join us and we could share childcare duties to make it together. I worked in law firms during the day and worked in the service industry at night to make bills meet. It took her several years to get her daughter, and it was through that process—watching her separated from her daughter, even though she was here on a work visa—that inspired me to go to law school and become an immigration attorney.

I became a lawyer in 2008, moved to Charlotte after going to law school in Texas. I was already a mother of two with a life behind me and ready to start a new journey.”

How did you start volunteering with LSSP?
“I had done battered immigrant cases with Legal Aid of North Carolina. I started working with LSSP through the Immigrant Justice Project. It was really exciting to be part of that starting. It was a collaboration of all the lawyers that were actively doing immigration. I was just one little piece in that. It was fun. It was wonderful, and to see what that’s become now, it’s pretty cool.”

Why do pro bono work?
“My first pro bono cases started before I had this practice, as soon as I had my license. I went into immigration law to help people and I recognize that it’s a business, but that’s why I went into it. There’s a seemingly unlimited need for people that need low-cost or free legal services compared to people that can afford them.”

“I feel like (doing pro bono is) our ethical responsibility as human beings and as lawyers. I think no matter what you do for a living, you should find a way to donate your talents to the world. This is what I know how to do and it brings me great joy.”

What has changed for immigration law in Charlotte during your time practicing here?
“I know a lot of local attorneys have dipped their toes into immigration due to pro bono, which I think is great, but the need still isn’t met. Most people don’t have a lawyer.

The transition is seeing the new (immigration) court open up and how the private bar and the non-profits like LSSP team together to address that need. That to me is absolutely the most amazing thing that’s happened.”

Is there a particular case you’ve had that speaks to why you went into immigration law?
“I’m very humbled by the work I do, and I recognize that it can change the course of the world. When someone lives in an area, they impact a community and they can change that community … Something that was really impactful to me was being able to help a client that started out being someone I represented when I was a law student in a clinical program and I still to this day have a relationship with that person.

That’s been really impactful – to see cases evolve. A client could start out with a deportation order and you’re able to get them their residency. Those cases, to me, are extremely rewarding. They’re very challenging. They’re very complicated legally. And the people who are in those situations are in a very desperate situation, and being able to provide them with the opportunity to get their residency or to eventually become a citizen, it’s unbelievable. All of my clients are special. It’s really hard to pick just one.”

What would you say to local attorneys considering a pro bono immigration case?
“I think that we need to recruit more people who want to do immigration law to begin with. When I first started, I didn’t speak another language. I was working really hard to support my kids and go to school. Now I do speak Spanish. It’s very possible to work effectively through interpreters.

I think probably the scariest thing is that it’s immigration, and it’s an extremely complicated area of the law, but I think that the cases that are selected to pair up with these volunteer attorneys are mostly specific benefits. LSSP has training. There are a lot of resources. Immigration attorneys are incredible mentors and incredible resources. Don’t be scared! You have good resources and it’ll make you feel good.”

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LSSP Heads Back to School with Single Stop at CPCC

Natalia Single StopOf the 12 million students who enroll in community college each year, half drop out because of financial barriers. Legal Services of Southern Piedmont wants to be the change that provides more positive outcomes for community college students.

LSSP is heading back to school this fall with students at Central Piedmont Community College to be a partner in CPCC’s Single Stop program, which promotes academic achievement by helping students deal with traditional barriers to degrees — financial instability, lack of adequate housing and child care along with access to health insurance.

Natalia Botella, medical-legal partnership attorney for LSSP, is available on campus Monday afternoons throughout the school year to meet with students and offer information on resources and benefits they may be eligible to receive in order to keep students on track to achieve their academic goals.



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Navigating the Medicaid Gap: Penelope

When Penelope Wingard was laid off from her job at a nonprofit after-school center in 2012, it was a major setback. Although her employer did not provide health benefits, her earnings had allowed her to sustain herself financially. As she began the daunting task of searching for a new job, she had no idea that a sudden diagnosis would derail her way of life.

In March 2013, Penelope went to the emergency room because of a pain in her side.  Despite having had a normal test result from a mammogram exam four months earlier, a CT body scan detected a mass in her breast. The next step was a biopsy.

Because she had no health coverage, personnel at the Levine Cancer Institute contacted the Mecklenburg County Health Department to help Penelope obtain Breast and Cervical Cancer Medicaid (BCCM) coverage.  To qualify for Breast and Cervical Cancer Medicaid, a patient must be referred to the health department or a state healthcare provider before cancer is ever diagnosed.

Without that referral, Penelope could not qualify for Medicaid and would not have been able to receive the treatment she needed.  She now realizes that the foresight of her physician at Penelope_Medicaid_Gap_070516_017Levine and that phone call saved her life.

Penelope began chemotherapy in June. While in the midst of cancer treatments, she suffered a brain aneurysm that required surgery and further complicated her health problems. She completed radiation and chemo treatments in February 2014 and shortly thereafter, Penelope lost her Medicaid coverage.

“As soon as I completed the radiation, my Medicaid was cut,” she said.

Though she was done with treatment, Penelope was not out of the woods. She continued to suffer complications from her breast surgery and resorted to emergency room services for pain relief.

With assistance from a supervisor, Penelope reapplied for Medicaid to continue treatment, but her application was denied.

The following January, Penelope needed a second brain surgery.  She was able to qualify for a grant that covered the cost of the surgery, but not the anesthesia. By November, Penelope had accrued $700 in medical bills that she was unable to pay. Her healthcare provider refused to continue treating her because of her balance, despite her serious health problems.

When she lost her vision in her left eye, Penelope called Physicians Reach Out, a program of volunteers from the medical community, where she was able to visit an eye doctor and then a specialist. In June, Penelope received a corneal transplant with financial assistance from the NC Center for the Blind.Penelope_Medicaid_Gap_070516_002

Her coverage for this care will end in August, but Penelope will need prescription eye drops for the rest of her life. Each refill costs $140. She has an appointment with a new oncologist to do post-treatment blood work. She is trying to get on with her life, but her medical bills continue to mount.

Penelope has tried to stay positive and put her life back together after overcoming the trauma of serious illness, but the struggle to piece together the health care she needs is overwhelming.

“The health care system in North Carolina is sad,” she said with tears welling in her eyes. “[Without LSSP] you don’t have anyone to stand up for you.”

However, Penelope has not given up. She is working with a health insurance navigator at LSSP to learn what her options are to receive coverage, including reapplying for Medicaid and seeking tax credit eligibility options in the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace.

Madison Hardee, senior attorney for healthcare access at LSSP, says that the healthcare system in North Carolina is incredibly complicated, and Penelope is like so many people across the state who don’t know that there are ways to qualify for healthcare coverage without an income.

“She was lost in the system and told that she wasn’t eligible for anything,” Hardee said. “With the help of a navigator, Penelope now clearly understands the eligibility rules for Medicaid in North Carolina and the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace.”

Penelope also urges other women to seek care even if they are afraid of the treatment and costs that may result from an exam.

“Tell women to do the treatments, and pray things get better,” she said.

Penelope_Medicaid_Gap_070516_023Penelope is one of 300,000 people in North Carolina who fall into the Medicaid coverage gap. She is ineligible for Medicaid because she has no children or qualifying disabilities, and she earns too little to qualify for tax credits that would help her afford insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

If North Carolina’s General Assembly expanded its Medicaid program in our state, Penelope could access the health care she needs. Without it, Penelope and so many citizens remain stuck in the gap, navigating a confusing healthcare system and waiting for change.


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