Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Thousands of disabled children could lose health services

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BATON ROUGE - Kodi Wilson has a special way of talking to her son Braden. She runs her fingers through his blonde curls while he hums back at her.

Braden can't talk or sit up or even grasp his mother's hand. He has a rare disorder known as Leigh's Disease and has been bedridden since birth.

"You know if I really reflected on my situation and felt sorry for myself everyday, I'd never get out of bed," said Wilson.

At 9 years old, Braden requires 24-hour care. It's expensive, too expensive for his parents.

"We weren't asking for a hand out," said Wilson. "We didn't need a lot of help, but we needed a little help."

The Wilsons are one of about 25,000 families with disabled children who get state-assisted health services. And they're all in danger of losing it very soon.

The state health department is almost out of money because of Louisiana's budget crisis.

Governor Edwards has suggested government cuts and tax hikes to keep the agency afloat.

The plan now rests on the shoulders of the State House of Representatives. It's the legislative body that's constitutionally required to propose tax increases.

However, multiple requests to meet with House leadership, including Speaker Taylor Barras, have gone unanswered.

"I feel like sometimes we're given the middle finger by the state," said Wilson.

If Braden is cut off from his services, Wilson believes their lives will change for the worst.

"If we stay in Louisiana, that probably means we'll need state assistance, welfare," said Wilson. "We'll possibly lose our home and our car. Or the other choice is to leave the state like many other families in our situation have already done."

State lawmakers will enter a special session in February. It's then that they'll decide if they'll raise taxes or cut services.


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