BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Kathy Edmonston's 30-year old son Zachry has Down syndrome. To help take care of him, she's getting assistance from both the federal and state governments. That has allowed Zach to live relatively independently. This means having an apartment and holding down two jobs. He even has time for a girlfriend.
"We've been able to, sort of, demonstrate independence and give him that opportunity to be that independent individual that he is. So, it's been a real success story," says Kathy Edmonston.
That success, however, is in danger for those living in Louisiana with similar situations due to a more than $850 million reduction in federal Medicaid assistance. This has meant laying off workers, streamlining services and closing down healthcare facilities.
"She's back on grade level with the rest of the kids her age, "Roselyn Davis, said. "When you think of a three to four year deficit, to be able to make that up inside of a year and a half, I think it's awesome.”
One of the hospitals closing is Southeast Medical Center. Davis' 16-year old daughter, Kayla, has been going there for more than a year and a half to treat her bipolar disorder. But with Southeast set to shut its doors at the end of the year to save Louisiana around $1.5 million. She’s afraid this decision will put her daughter's life is in danger.
"One of my greatest fears has been that one time that she's successful. That time when she doesn't wake up," says Davis.
On top of the massive reduction in federal Medicaid assistance more than $150 million is set to be slashed from the LSU Hospitals' budget. That means more than 1500 positions are set to be cut, including more than 340 at Earl k. Long hospital in Baton Rouge.
"When you change the system all at once in four weeks or six weeks that's quite draconian," Dr. Paul Perkowski, a Baton Rouge-based physician, explained.
Dr. Perkowski says the cuts are having an effect on more than just the care patients are receiving. It's also causing a brain-drain that could cause future doctors to leave the state and not come back.
"Those medical students and residents in training now no longer have a hospital to practice their craft, to train in their craft," Dr. Perkowski continued. "So, if those residents leave for other opportunities because their hospital is closing or experiencing budget trauma, then those residents are unlikely to practice medicine in Louisiana."
Roselyn hopes that doesn't happen. For now, she and Kayla are doing the best they can with seemingly ever-decreasing resources.
"Today is a little bit better than yesterday. It's a day by day process. Sometimes it's hour by hour. We don't make a lot of plans," she said. "We just take it as it goes."