COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Nathaniel Hargett is recovering from his 109th surgery. His mother, Cheryl is his primary caregiver. She shows me the hardware, a shunt, which was replaced in his brain. He not only suffers from hydrocephalus, but cerebral palsy, deafness, and several other chronic disorders.
At the age of 38, his mother says his condition is not better, but worse. That's why she was shocked to learn the private Medicaid contractor who assessed his needs, cut the hours he's allotted for home health care by 40%.
Cheryl says, "It's money for someone to come in and help take care of him, to help him with skilled care, to do the things that he cannot do for himself that someone else needs to do for him and with him."
Patricia Yeager is the CEO of the nonprofit group, The Independence Center, which provides home health care and advocates for the disabled community. She says, “There are lots of other people in this boat."
Her goal, helping the disabled live at home with their families, rather than nursing homes. She says this year her agency has seen 9 severely disabled El Paso County patients get their home health care hours cut, one by as much as 75%, when their conditions did not improve.
What concerns her is, even though her agency works in other Colorado counties, she has only seen this happening in El Paso County.
Patricia says, "We work in several counties and we're not seeing that so much in the other counties that we're working in so, i don't know what's going on.”
Rocky Mountain Options for Long Term Care is the only private Medicaid contractor making these kind of assessments for more than 3,000 El Paso county adults with disabilities.
For answers, i went to Abbey Walda, the executive director who disagrees with Yeager.
She says most allocations have actually gone up, but now after hearing from Yeager, she’s looking over cases where cuts were made.
Abbey says, "The one who was cut 75 percent we are sending a new case manager to go out next week to take a look at that one."
Abbey says a number of factors are used to decide how many home health care hours a patient receives. She says in Nathaniel’s case, workers assessed he was improving and Cheryl wasn't using all the hours allotted to her.
Abbey goes on to say, “If she wanted another case manager to go out there and access, and get another opinion. She can ask for that."
Cheryl says she will appeal.
We learned the caseload in El Paso County for assessing these kind of disability cases is higher than anywhere else in the state, including Denver.
Abbey says they are understaffed and overloaded with the average case worker handing close to 200 cases each. She's hoping for a bump up in budget, something that hasn't happened in the last 3 years.