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Case illustrates the value of legal-medical partnership

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When Anthony Gordon finds himself in a situation he does not understand, his eyes will search for his great-grandmother, Rose Gordon.

The look he then gives her is one she knows well. It is his way of asking for help, asking her to step in and make things better. For 19 years, Rose Gordon has loved her great-grandson, gotten him to his medical appointments, made sure he completed high school, and taken care of the situation when she got “the look.”

Now, that look is causing her to worry. At 73-years-old and in declining health, Rose Gordon knows a time will come when Anthony searches for her but she will not be there to answer.

“One day I got to leave him and that’s my major, major concern is someone being there for him,” Rose Gordon said.
 

partnership-15col.jpg Rose Gordon (seated, left) credits attorney Jay Chaudhary (seated right) and 3L Aminta Moses (standing, left) with bringing her peace of mind about her great-grandson Anthony’s (standing, right) future. (IL Photo/ Marilyn Odendahl)

That concern was compounded when Anthony, suffering from developmental and physical disabilities, was denied Social Security disability benefits. Rose Gordon first showed the denial letter to Anthony’s therapist Kristen Williams who quickly filed an appeal then turned to Abhishek “Jay” Chaudhary.

An attorney, Chaudhary is the executive director of the Midtown/Indiana Legal Services Medical Legal Partnership. Started about a year ago, the partnership provides the clients at Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health with the help they need to solve legal problems that, left unresolved, could ruin their credit ratings, leave them homeless and exacerbate their mental illnesses.

Chaudhary turned the file over to his intern Aminta Moses, a 3L at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Together, working with Williams as well as Rose and Anthony Gordon, they were able to get the denial reversed.

“They worked,” Rose Gordon said. “When I say worked, they worked.”

“The outcome of Anthony’s case really shows the power and value of (Midtown and ILS) coming together to serve people who need it and could not access the system otherwise,” said Williams, lead clinician and social worker at Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health.

Running to appointments

Anthony’s great-grandmother has cared for him ever since he was a 2-pound, 2-ounce premature baby. His mother died little more than a month after his birth from what Rose Gordon called, “trusting the wrong people.”

At first, Rose Gordon did not accept the doctor’s diagnosis of Anthony, but eventually she saw and was forced to accept her great-grandson had a special set of challenges. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and mental illness.

His care, Rose Gordon said, required “running, running, running, running” to this hospital, that hospital, this doctor, that doctor, and a constant flow of medications. A parade of social workers and therapists marched through their lives, changing so often Anthony has said he is used to losing people.

In the midst of it all, Rose and Anthony Gordon made a typical home life. Anthony developed his talent for drawing. And on special weekends, the pair packed some food and clothes and headed to the country to fish for blue gill and catfish.

Rose Gordon knows Anthony’s disabilities will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hold a job and care for his own basic needs. Still, like any great-grandmother, she never discouraged him. She let him discover what he could do and shared his dreams.

“I hope he’ll be able to, since he likes art, that someway he’ll be able to do it well enough that he can be independent, he’ll know and feel independent,” Rose Gordon said. “I want that so bad for him.”

She realized with no Social Security benefits, Anthony was very much in danger of falling through the cracks. The Social Security benefits were the key to making sure he has services and the support he needs after his great-grandmother passes on.

But the denial highlighted a unique caveat to Anthony’s appeal. Namely, he presents himself very well, especially on paper. He comes across just like any competent, polite, ambiguous high school graduate who has the ability to provide for himself.

Consequently, the Social Security Administration’s denial of his application for Social Security was understandable.

Moses dug through an estimated 1,000 pages of Anthony’s medical records, drawing out the details that would enable the hearing officer to understand the back story.

She and Chaudhary met several times with Williams. The legal duo also had several conversations with the Gordons, always remembering that Rose knew Anthony the best.

Like Rose Gordon, Williams was impressed with the level of dedication Chaudhary and Moses brought to the case. Even though they were not confident they would win, they applied themselves and put together the best case they could, she said.

In fact, if the denial had been upheld, Williams believed the case would be over for good because Chaudhary and Moses had worked so hard that nothing was left undone.

Their work also impressed Anthony and gave him optimism on the day of the hearing.

“I didn’t have hope we would win, but once I got there, sat down and saw how large the files were, that gave me high hopes,” Anthony said.

Those high hopes were warranted. After the legal team, Williams and the Gordons presented their side, the hearing officer made the unusual move of deciding right then to authorize Anthony’s benefits.

Weeks later, Rose Gordon was enjoying the afternoon on her front porch and still smiling about the outcome. She compared her happiness to being a little child nestled in the loving care of parents.

“That’s the best way I know how to describe it,” she said.

Funding boost

Like the Gordons, the Midtown/ILS Partnership is getting some new support.

The partnership was launched fulltime in 2012 with a $120,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Just as the grant is coming to an end in 2013, Midtown is preparing to start offering funding for the partnership.

The influx of new funding will not only help keep the program going but also enable the partnership to hire a part-time attorney and expand Chaudhary’s role to handling more complex legal matters and doing public outreach.

“This is good news; this is a very important project,” said Norman Metzger, executive director of ILS. “This project has proven its value to the community. It’s a rewarding thing to be involved with.”

In 28 years at Midtown, Margie Payne, CEO of Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health and vice president of mental health operations at Wishard-Eskenazi Health, has always seen the need clients have for legal help but rarely was the assistance available. The success of the partnership in helping clients enabled Midtown to provide funding.

The money was freed because Midtown no longer had to cover the costs of all its services and medications. Since the partnership has been able to secure Social Security payments and Medicaid for Midtown clients, these individuals are now able to pay the mental health center for the treatment they receive.

“It’s a small contribution compared to the benefit we’re getting from it,” Payne said.•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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