Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Help Me Howard: Money for 911
You live alone, you suffer from a serious illness and because of it you dial 911 for help. Very familiar, but what is happening in Boca Raton is not. The city is billing a woman suffering from mulitple sclerosis $250 each time they are sent to help her. Is it legal to bill someone for making calls for help. The story tonight in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser
WSVN -- Lynn Brill: "I was diagnosed with M.S, when I was like 27."
f you think you have problems, stop, look, and listen to Lynn Brill.
Lynn Brill: "You can't walk well anymore, you have bladder problems, you have eye problems."
Lynn suffers from multiple sclerosis.
Lynn Brill: "You have bad cases of being sad and depressed."
And actually saying she just suffers from M.S. is a massive understatement.
Lynn Brill: "It's a horrible disease that doesn't just affect your limbs, it affects your brain, you mind."
Lynn lives alone in her Boca Raton condo. She can't walk, the muscles in her arms are so weak she can't lift herself, and far too often while trying to make it to the bathroom, while trying to fix a cup of coffee, she falls out of her wheelchair.
Lynn Brill: "If God forbid I fall, I press this button. It's a life line,
and then they'll call the fire department of Boca Raton and the fire dept comes here and they know how to get into my house."
The Boca Raton firefighters come to pick her up and put her back in her chair. For a woman who was so independent, It's degrading.
Lynn Brill: "They come in and it's very humiliating because i'm on the floor laying there, my nightgown could be up, sometimes falling from the shower, and it's horrible. It's a horrible thing."
Her story gets worse, Lynn has called Boca Fire rescue so much, the city started charging her each time they came out.
Lynn Brill: "And I was never told anything that they were going to start charging me, and it's over $3,000."
It's now $250 each time 911 is dialed. Lynn can't afford to pay a nurse to watch her and certainly cant afford to pay Boca Raton.
Lynn Brill: "I'm afraid if I fall. Do I press the button, or do I just lay there and someone will just walk by and see me. I don't know what to do. I'm really at a loss for words."
A few days ago, she did fall out of her wheelchair and laid there for three hours until a friend stopped by to visit. She didn't hit the lifeline because she cant afford to dial 911.
Lynn Brill: "I know i'm crying and I don't want to, but i'm overwhelmed from this, I am overwhelmed."
Enormously sad, but is it legal to charge a victim of multiple sclerosis $250 each time fire rescue is sent to help her..
Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately many people with special needs have to turn to 911 for help. But government agencies can bill you for emergency services. And if you cant afford to pay, or refuse to pay, they can turn you over to a collection agency and put a lien on your house. For someone like Lynn it's not fair but it's legal."
When I spoke to Boca Raton they told me Lynn called fire rescue 11 times in 2005, 14 times in 2006, and in 2007, 135 times.
For things like helping her get from her wheelchair to the toilet.
Lynn told me, to her that is an emergency. The fire chief told me one day we are going to be at her house on a non emergency call and someone is going to die during an emergency situation somewhere else.
The city manager told me we are not set up to be in the home health care business. That our goal is to get her some assistance. To enable her to stop calling 911, and then we can work on the fees.
Lynn Brill: "If they had a family member going through what i'm going through, somehow they'd be help."
Social workers have told Lynn she needs to go into a nursing home...She feels she is too young to be put there, and is beginning to feel there is only one option left for her.
Lynn Brill: "You know the next place i'm gonna be? In heaven with my parents. I hope, in heaven with my parents. That's what I hope."
The bottom line, If lynn were rich or poor she could get help, but since she owns her condo she doesn't qualify for assistance.
Also Boca Raton's finance department told me Lynn's bill is now up to $4,000, and they are turning her over to collections.
Of course Lynn can't pay it, and if she does dial 911 the city manager told me they will respond.
I flat out failed to solve this one.
If you have a solution, give us a call
We never said we were good, we just try, and try, and try.
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