Born with a developmental disability, Nick lived in a group home for adults and relied on his parents to pay for his care. Both Nick and his parents considered him very lucky to live there: as a working ranch, the group home gives him the opportunity to work with animals and be a part of a larger community. He had friends and a job in town, and was by all accounts thriving. But as Nick grew older and his parents continued to support him and his siblings, one of whom also had a disability, it became clear they could no longer afford to pay for the place he called home.
As a disabled adult, Nick was eligible for a Medicaid disability program that could pay for his stay at the group home. Unfortunately, accessing these programs can be difficult – Nick had been on the waitlist for years, but when Nick’s parents tried to get him moved off the waiting list, their application was denied. Without the Medicaid disability program, and because they could no longer make payments, they feared Nick would be evicted.
That’s when Nick’s parents heard about MLSA and reached out for help. An MLSA attorney worked with them to request a hearing to contest the denial of benefits and helped them navigate the byzantine list of requirements and documentation needed to get Nick approved. With this legal help, they submitted the additional information and Nick’s application was approved. As a result, Nick was able to stay in his home, and he and his parents no longer had to worry that he would be forced to leave his friends and community behind.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Nick and his family. Every year, thousands of Montanans find themselves facing civil legal problems for which they lack the resources to address. With private attorneys charging an average of $200 per hour in Montana, private legal assistance is often out of reach for many low and moderate income Montanans, leaving them with little choice but to try to address their legal problems on their own or else ignore them altogether.
For these individuals, the services provided by MLSA can serve as a lifeline, giving them the tools and knowledge they need to face their legal problems head on and avert the potentially life-changing consequences of leaving their legal problems unaddressed. As Tim said when reflecting on his family's experience receiving MLSA's services “Our experience has just reconfirmed for me that the impact is on people’s lives. [Having access to civil legal aid] could literally make a life or death difference to people.”