Last week, while skimming a few posts in my inbox, I read a headline titled “Denver boy, 9, died after state-benefits error denied him asthma medication“. As I gasped, I felt like I was reading a repeat story from 2007.
In 2007, 12 year old Deamonte Driver died because of a lack of adequate dental care. I can remember making the numerous calls to dentists in Prince George’s County who were listed as Medicaid dental providers. I can remember hanging up the phone time after time completely frustrated. The response I received from over 60 dental offices:
“No, we don’t take that insurance”.
In the meantime, a little boy was suffering.
So when I read the headline from last week I became furious. How many more children must die in America, yes AMERICA, because of systemic failures? The state of Colorado FAILED this little boy, just as the state of Maryland failed Deamonte.
After Deamonte’s passing, advocates got pissed. The Public Justice Center refocused its Health Rights Project to raise awareness of the realities poor children face in accessing dental care. Dentists and advocates came together to work out solutions to keep an atrocity like this from ever happening again.
So how does the grief and outrage felt in Maryland three years ago help prevent other tragedies like Zumante Lucero? How many more children must die in vain before we hold state governments accountable for their failure to deliver safety net programs they are required to deliver by law?
I get even more outraged when state officials come out with their insensitive remarks, as in this:
“the death of any child is a tragic loss,” said spokeswoman Revekka Balancier. “And our department tries very hard to prevent these kinds of tragic accidents.”
Yes Ms. Balancier, Zumante’s loss is tragic. You know what else it should be? Illegal. His death was 100% preventable if your department had not failed him.