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Brook's Battle with Tennessee's Healthcare System

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Brook Chadwick, a New York native, found herself facing a multitude of healthcare challenges after relocating to Tennessee with her children. A mother of four, Brook's life was filled with doctor's appointments, medications, and endless paperwork, all while grappling with an uncooperative healthcare system.

"In New York, I could get the help I needed when I needed it, but my kids and I have struggled to get what we need," Brook explained. "Like with their mental health, they can't get the help that they need even if they are trying."

Brook has a hole in one of her teeth, and her attempts to fix it only led to further damage. "I finally was able to get glasses, but they did not help me all the way," she said. She also faced issues with her eyes, frequent headaches, and recurring sickness. Even with a pacemaker, her doctors assured her that everything was fine.

"Well, I have healthcare, but it's just harder to get into doctors here, you know?" says Brook. "They have long waiting lists anywhere you go." The local clinic, which was supposed to be a one-stop solution, no longer had an OB or a pediatric doctor. For Brook, transportation added to the struggle. "Especially when you don't have a car, which most of us don't."

The emotional toll of these experiences weighed heavily on Brook. "It's hard, especially when it comes to your kids and not being able to get them what they need," she said. "You shouldn't have to go somewhere to get mental health help for your child and not be able to get an appointment until a month later."

Brook's daughter faced her share of challenges, too, with multiple case managers and counselors. "My daughter is on her 3rd or 4th case manager and her 4th set of counselors. She does not like talking to people," Brook explained. "I got lucky that she even went, but who likes talking to new people? I’m just saying, it makes it hard. Even with me, I am on my 4th counselor myself, and they always leave. What’s the point? Now I see where my oldest daughter is coming from. Why should I talk to somebody? It’s not like they can help, they're not going to stay"

Specialists were hard to access, including eye care. Brook further explained, "Like with my eyes, yeah. I did not have dental or vision insurance." The challenges extended to the realm of finances. She couldn't understand how a $3,000 income limit could support a whole family, especially in low-income housing projects. “The food stamp office is asking me all these questions and when I just did my recertification, they asked me for my Cash App balance, because they said I can’t make more than somewhere around $3,000. What is $3,000 gonna do for a whole family? I live in the projects and that’s still not enough even if I had it. I don’t understand how other people are supposed to live and do what they need to do.” Brook said.

While Brook didn't currently face issues with medications, she acknowledged the financial difficulties that could arise due to unemployment. "Since I am not working, I do not have the $2.00 that they were charging me." Furthermore, her daughter's medication became harder to obtain after the pharmacy closed.

When asked about the potential impact of comprehensive health coverage, Brook responded, "It would give me more peace of mind. I wouldn't have to stress as much." Her son's recurring asthma attacks left her anxious about potential insurance cancellations.

Though Brook had jobs that offered health insurance, the cost remained prohibitive. "Health insurance is expensive!" she emphasized. She recalled her time working at the Middle Tennessee Mental Hospital and how the cost of insurance was simply too much to bear.

Reflecting on the lack of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, Brook passionately expressed her concerns. "We need it! We need it to include dental and vision and everything because now I have a huge hole in my tooth, and I never had issues with my teeth until I moved here. When I was in New York I had everything. My kids were able to go, like me and my daughter, we both were able to go to our counseling appointments. We literally had counseling every week, we had doctors, and we were getting everything accomplished. We had dental. We had mental health. It was so much different. Even housing is so much different. Here you think, oh you have the churches here there, and everywhere, but I’ve seen more violence here than I ever have being in New York and they say that’s the highest crime state? I don’t get it. All the homeless people, it doesn’t make any sense.”

Brook's story underscored the urgent need for accessible, comprehensive healthcare for vulnerable communities in Tennessee. As she concluded, her voice trembled with emotion, "It's really depressing. And they wonder why all these kids and people in general are depressed and can't get ahead in life, but it's because we don't have the help we need. Now I’m going to cry.”

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