9 On Your Side gets action, helping a family with a disabled child.
Louise Buffalo of Chocowinity
came to 9 On Your Side when she couldn't get straps needed to secure her
daughter in their van or the physical therapy equipment a doctor ordered.
Those straps arrived Thursday
after our report aired about what appears to be useless red tape created by East
Carolina Behavioral Health, the MCO serving medical providers in the east.
Buffalo accused ECBH of
ignoring her case, allowing the prescription to expire. She went 18-month trying
to get the equipment that helps her safely transport her disabled daughter to
Buffalo says she thought
this day would never come. "It makes me really happy. I'm really happy for what
Shortly after our story
aired last week, ECBH not only called Buffalo to fix the situation, they
actually drove to her house.
Buffalo says she
appreciates they're paying attention finally. But she says, no one with a legitimate
need should ever have to go without doctor's orders simply because of ECBH
"I shouldn't have had
to wait 18 months for this to be able to get done. If I wouldn't have come to you
(WNCT) to get help, I still probably as of today wouldn't have had it."
In addition to the new equipment, Buffalo
says ECBH also provided her family with a new case worker.
We contacted ECBH for comment. They said, "It
is our policy not to discuss specific cases with the media regarding persons
receiving services. Because the family chose to go to the media, we can
only say we are doing everything within our power to address the
As we've reported over the last year our mental health system is in trouble, especially when it comes to the disabled using Medicaid.
Louise Buffalo approached 9 On Your Side about an issue affecting her family for the last 18 months. Buffalo whose daughter is 23 and suffers from cerebral palsy visits her doctors often. Problem is---she is missing a tie strap she needs to be transported. Buffalo requested them in May 2012.
In the event of an accident, they could save Maria's life if she is strapped into the car properly.
"I should have received the tie downs probably no more than 3-4 months after I had her first evaluation." Buffalo said.
Because of the delays, Buffalo went searching for answers. East Carolina Behavioral Health (ECBH) handles those claims and pays the bill. Buffalo gave them the prescription for the tie downs back in 2012 but says they sat on the case coordinator's desk and allowed for it to expire.
"I kept calling and asked what's the problem. And she says the prescriptions ran out. Now we'll have to go back and get prescriptions from the doctor."
Each doctor's visit costs her money her family doesn't have. Buffalo took her complaints about ECBH to the Director of the North Carolina's Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disability, and Substance Abuse Services.
"Part of the things that happen in ECBH are just growing pains I think. Other parts of it are probably design problems that we have. One of them is that we don't have a system that treats the whole person." Dave Richard said.
But buffalo and others don't think "growing pains" is an acceptable response. On Tuesday she and others shared their frustrations at a town hall meeting.
"I feel like so much emphasis is being put on what someone looks like on paper and not what they really are." Kristie Stox said.
"It's double work, inefficiencies, it's lack of professionalism. It's like a doctor that doesn't have bedside manner. They are there to operate and that's it." Kimberly Watkins added.
Our reporting has revealed this is a rampant problem that few will speak up about.
"They are scared, they are scared to come through. They are scared their hours will get cut. They are scared that they won't have help." Watkins said.
But Buffalo is not one of those; she says she's sticking up for those who can't.
9 On Your Side called ECBH to comment on Buffalo's case and to address the accusations. A representative for the company us they can't talk about specific cases. Several employees from ECBH were at Tuesday's town hall.
One of them spoke to Buffalo and said they would look into the issue.
ECBH also released this statement. "If, at any time, someone has a concern about services or an interaction with ECBH staff, we encourage them to register that concern as a grievance. To do so, they may call our toll free number, 1-877-685-2415, and a call center agent will initiate a grievance process. A complaint form is also available on our web site at www.ecbhlme.org. We'll make every effort to resolve the issue as quickly as possible."