Medical-legal partnerships working together to help families across South Carolina

Medical-legal partnerships working together to help families across South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It’s days like Friday that Brittney Kennedy doesn’t take a moment spent with her daughter Araina for granted.

“I had her at 26 weeks and I had to go home without taking my baby with me,” Kennedy said.

Araina spent 6 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Doctors diagnosed her with chronic lung disease. Kennedy said, “She strengthens my faith. With every moment. Because they are moments where it could have gone the other way. There are moments I thought my daughter wouldn’t be here.”

When Araina was able to come home she had feeding and breathing tubes. She also needed help from a ventilator. A few months later, Medicaid reduced the hours of private-duty nursing services they were covering. It dropped from 74 to 20 hours a week.

This was a shock to Araina’s family.

They began their appeal process having no real clue how to make sure Araina would get the help she needs. “If we’re not fully aware of these deadlines and these extra steps. Who lacks the benefit, the child.”

This is where the University of South Carolina’s Carolina Health Advocacy Medicolegal Partnership (CHAMPS) Clinic comes in. The clinic is made up of a team of graduate students and faculty from USC’s School of Law. They work with low-income clients to understand the medical system.

They also work closely with medical professionals and the Medical University of South Carolina students. Keeping them in the loop on the legal side of health care.

“The more we can educate them while providing the services directly to the patients simply facilitates it so people don’t fall through the system," Dr. Robert Wilcox said.

The CHAMPS Clinic was able to get the covered hours restored and the team made sure the hours could not be reduced without input from Araina’s doctors.

Araina is making progress and will be turning three in July.

“They may have fought this fight with me, but they fought this for all other mothers across South Carolina," Kennedy said.

CHAMPS will be joining forces with Greenville’s Medical-Legal Partnership, all thanks to a million dollar grant from The Duke Endowment. This will help families statewide deal with access to government benefits, resolving guardianship issues and working with landlords to improve living conditions.

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