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Unpaid West Virginia Workers Concerned for Families’ Health

A single mother in West Virginia just hit hard times. She deals with many children, staggering health issues, sometimes drug addiction and the consequences that come along with all of that. That statement probably doesn’t initially raise any eyebrows as more eyes focused on the Mountain State last week when Senator Bernie Sanders visited; putting a national spotlight on the ugly truth about what has happened and is happening to West Virginia after its economic collapse.

But this single mother is nothing like what you are probably envisioning. Jennifer Franklin is a Registered Nurse and Developmental Specialist who received her LPN in 1996, she practiced as a pediatric nurse for 8 years and she also obtained her Bachelors of Science in Nursing in 2003. She is currently a contracted employee for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human services, under the office of Maternal, Child, and Family Health with a program titled Birth to Three. A program made possible by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Ms. Franklin states that her job is to care for families that are eligible under one of the three following situations:

    1. Established conditions like Down Syndrome, hearing or vision impairment, various other syndromes
    2. Risk factors, drug exposure, open CPS case, family support stressors, family barriers to accessing support, premature babies, multiple births, primary caregivers that may have impairments, etc.
    3. Existing delay. Children that have at least a 40% delay in one area 25% delay in 2 or more area or substantially atypical development in 2 or more areas or a combination of any of those delays

“We assess the child’s physical and social status. We assess their skills in motor development, speech/language, cognitive and play skill/problem solving, social skills, and adaptive skills (things like eating, sleeping, toileting, and self-help). Once those areas are tested by two practitioners, we then have a meeting to determine eligibility. Once eligible, these contracted employees go into the home and work, hands-on with the child, to educate the family on what they can do to make daily tasks easier, and general modifications with behavior, feeding, talking, crawling, etc. We educate the family so they can do what we do when we aren’t there. We can see them from birth until the day before their third birthday, hence the name of the program, as long as they qualify yearly. If they still have delays or need further services we assist with the transition process into the school system and set them up there.”

This past Tuesday, Ms. Franklin received an email that informed her that her last paycheck would be her last paycheck until further notice. No, she wasn’t fired and she is bound by law to continue to work with her patients. How many of you are willing to work without pay indefinitely? But this situation is nothing new for her or her co-workers, who are no strangers to waiting for the next paycheck to arrive, the part of the letter that really stuck out to Ms. Franklin was this tidbit:

“I’ve noticed that recently we have more children coming in under the eligibility category of ‘Atypical’ delay.  I’m sure that our eligibility work will be scrutinized closely, so we need to be sure that all children do meet the current eligibility criteria.  For children coming in under the category of Atypical development, documentation has to describe why a child’s development is significantly different and why it would not be expected to resolve without early intervention.
Some of these children are exiting at their six-month reviews, which may indicate that they did not have needs significant enough to meet our current definition. even though they obviously benefited from the services.”

What this essentially means is that this agency is contemplating cutting off care to those who don’t have enough of a need, in an attempt to make their budget stretch enough to take care of the more difficult and needy cases. Meanwhile, this was going on at the WV House of Delegates Wednesday morning:

File May 19, 8 37 24 AM
Screen shot from Kennie Bass Facebook page

The word around the water cooler is that the spending authority authorizes the release of emergency funds, but that the money can’t be used until that happens. The plot twist to that theory is that it’s possible emergency funding was approved in March and that too is being held up.

So, while families struggle with health and developmental issues, the agency in place to help those families chugs along, asking its employees to work without compensation for the interim; the delegates thought that the best use of their time was to first and foremost, make sure they got paid and that they got cupcakes.

Here you go West Virginia #yourtaxdollarsatwork.

UPDATE: To this story here

Follow me at @goddesspamela on Twitter.

Written by Pamela Getz

Writer and Activist. Follow Pamela on Twitter @goddesspamela.

Pamela Getz is Editor of International Affairs for Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

One Comment

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  1. Was that actually the WV House of Delegates “work” for Wednesday? Please tell me that was a joke. Please!
    I often drive 200+ miles a day to work with my “Birth To Three” families. I am happy to do it. I love my job. If the group that showed up on Wednesday received compensation for their statements of patriotism and cupcakes, they need to quickly return that money to the general fund. Those funds could likely pay for hundreds of family visits. The delegates can eat cake – on their own time. Thank you very much.

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Unpaid West Virginia Workers Concerned for Families’ Health