#EveryoneDeservesCare: Latisha's Story

September 1, 2022 / #EveryoneDeservesCare

Latisha introduces herself as an African-American woman with mild to moderate cerebral palsy who is the second oldest of eight sisters. She graduated from Meadowdale High School for International Studies on May 31, 2003, and from the University of Vermont LEND (Leadership Education Neuro Developmental Disabilities) Program on May 9, 2022.

From an early age, Latisha has been a fierce advocate, both for herself and for others. During her childhood she did not have a stable home until the age of 12 nor the accessibility her disability required. Latisha reached out to a teacher because she felt she was not being properly cared for. Her teacher encouraged her to share her story with the school services coordinator. She was confident to share her story because she had documentation to prove her negative experience. Latisha and the coordinator had a three-hour conversation that resulted in her getting put on the emergency status list. From there, she was able to start the provider selection process.

Today, Latisha receives daily living, transportation, and financial support from her direct care workers. In order to receive all the care she needs, there must be available staff that can assist her. She enjoys living independently because it offers her the freedom to go where she wants. Moreover, it allows her to be active in her community.

Latisha is a member of the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee. The Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee is a group of individuals with disabilities who advocate for structural change within disability systems. She is also involved in the committee’s peer support group that offers individuals with disabilities community support and resources to handle difficult situations. The support group also serves as a safe space for individuals to come together to talk about personal problems.

Latisha volunteers as an Ohio State Ombudsman associate. In this role she advocates for the rights individuals in the Sanctuary Nursing Home and provides a listening ear if needed. She also serves on the Ohio Olmsted Taskforce Direct Care Crisis Work Group, where the group works on solutions to the crisis while educating legislators and lawmakers. Additionally, Latisha holds a seat on the Ohio Provider Resources Association (OPRA) Advocacy Committee, which assists individuals with disabilities on how to get more involved in advocacy work. In 2019, Latisha advocated for herself to get an automatic door opener and other wheelchair accessibility accommodations in her apartment with assistance of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center in Dayton, Ohio. They proceeded with filing an accessibility discrimination case, which they won in April of 2022.

Latisha has grown concerned because the people that assist her have children and have to drive back and forth. With the increase in gas prices she is afraid of losing staff because travel has become more expensive. She recounted how she has an assistant with three children who is looking for another job because of high gas prices. She commented that at ten dollars an hour her assistant is struggling to put gas in her car. She believes she is going to lose staff because the agency does not want to help the workers or offer assistance. This has created the fear that in the future she will not have staff and will be forced to go into a nursing home.

Latisha wants people to know about the emotional damage that can take place when an assistant is let go by the agency. Latisha says she has experienced this firsthand on two occasions. She had one assistant that helped her for three years and then she was let go. The agency told her assistant she needed medical training and then she could come back, but she did not. The second instance was for the same reason and also resulted in her assistant not returning. Latisha has become good friends with her assistants, so it hurts when they cannot return. She thinks management needs to take the client’s feelings into consideration and think about the impact that changing assistants will have on the individual.

Latisha believes that better wages would help to resolve the crisis. Furthermore, direct care workers should receive gas cards, bus passes, and increased gas mileage pay. There should also be better accommodations for workers, such as a substitution list and benefits for staff, especially for those that have children.

In addition to advocating for better treatment of direct care workers, Latisha also wants to advocate for removing annual caps for equipment and services for people on Medicaid. For instance, having one dental care trip a year or receiving one new wheelchair every five years is often very limiting and not enough to meet people’s needs. She wants people who use services to have the ability to get them when they need them, especially during emergency situations. Increasing investments to support people in their communities is needed to help people live their best lives. These investments are necessary along with improving the direct care workers service systems to ensure high quality care for individuals.

-Transcribed by Tavis Daluz-Cates from Latisha Martin

#EveryoneDeservesCare shares real stories from disabled Ohioans that have been affected by the Direct Care Workforce Crisis in order to educate the population and those in power to make change on the dire nature of this issue. Direct Care Workers are people who provide home care services, such as certified nurses, home health aides, personal care aides, caregivers and companions. Factors contributing to a lack of care for disabled Ohioans range from low-pay, inadequate incentives to remain in a care field, and lack of sufficient funding for service systems. Due to the impact of the crisis, disabled Ohioans have gone without their basic needs and wants being met for years. Many have either been forced into nursing facilities or other institutions or have endured a lower quality of life and risks to their health and safety.

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