DeltaYou: Bradley Ledgerwood’s Fight

by Jiayue Liao
Delta Digital News Service

CASH, ARKANSAS — Though confined to a wheelchair for 34 years, Bradley “Brad” Ledgerwood continues fighting for his personal rights.

Ledgerwood was born with cerebral palsy, which keeps him from independently standing, walking, taking care of his personal hygiene and feeding himself. The only parts of his body he can move by himself are his hands, but they have a limited range of movement.

“I can’t do anything by myself,” Ledgerwood said.

Ledgerwood lives in Cash, a very small town with fewer than 400 residents and no hospitals.

When Ledgerwood joined the ARChoices program in 2002, he was approved for 56 hours per week of in-home personal care Medicaid services, which was the maximum allowed. In January 2016, the Arkansas Department of Human Services introduced a new system for setting the maximum number of hours for ARChoices’ participants. The new system relies on computer algorithms rather than caregiver discretion.

LISTEN: Bradley Ledgerwood explains the difference in his care hours.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services twice cut Ledgerwood’s in-home personal care services from 56 hours per week down to 32 hours per week since he’s not on a respirator, according to the Ledgerwood family. Although two appeals have kept services at 56 hours a week, Ledgerwood must undergo another evaluation in January 2017.

He said the slash of personal care services would take his life away.

“I can’t drive, so if I want to go anywhere, I have to ask my mom to take me there,” Ledgerwood said.

The Ledgerwood family at Paragould's Lincoln Day Dinner.

David and Ann Ledgerwood kneel for a picture with Bradley at Paragould’s Lincoln Day Dinner. Bradley Ledgerwood will start his third term as alderman for Cash in January. (photo by Alice Mellow, courtesy of the Ledgerwood family)

When DHS first cut Ledgerwood’s hours, his mother had to quit her job to take care of him. If a life-threatening emergency happened, she might not be able to make it back in time from Jonesboro — an approximate 30-minute one-way commute.

Ann Ledgerwood said the system changed the service hours without reasoning other than a computer system that only allots so much time.

“We just know the last two years, his hours have been cut from 56 to 32 with no improvement,” she said.

Critics note a recent ruling only makes DHS explain to ARChoices’ participants why their allocated hours will be cut, and claim hours are being cut even more drastically. But testimony from the professor who invented the algorithm suggests the state’s software may be faulty and DHS does not understand the tool it uses.

“If you going to do a program, you are knowing how it works,” Ledgerwood said. “Nobody in state government knows how the computer program works.”

His father, David, notes technology may not always be the answer.

“I have a love/hate relationship with technology,” he said. “Algorithms do work, but there’s a human element that has to be there.”

Since DHS started using the new system in January 2016, 47 percent of participants in ARChoices have seen a reduction in service hours, according to a Nov. 6 Jonesboro Sun article.

“I feel like the people in government are just wanting to make a name for themselves … the ones who are supporting the cuts are just wanting to make a name for themselves and I don’t think they care about people,” Ledgerwood said.

LISTEN: Ledgerwood voices his frustration with those in government.