“The tornado hit us hard!” These were the first words Jamie, a Vista Points Special Needs Trust client said to me in our phone call March 4, 2020. Jamie lives with a disability – mental illness.  She is paranoid to an extent where she has trouble functioning, such as going outside, being around other people, holding a job, sleeping, and general anxiety.  All I could say to Jamie was “I am so sorry.  Are you okay?”

When tragedy comes to anyone, the internal feelings of anxiety and fear well up. For someone living with a disability, the feelings can be overwhelming.  The person may not be able to function.  Feelings of hopelessness can actually prevent a person from moving forward through the tragedy.  For Jamie, she did the right thing by calling her trustee, Vista Points, telling the staff what had happened, and asking for help. 

Jamie has a first party special needs trust.  This trust was established to hold the money from Jamie’s lawsuit settlement.  With the money in the trust, Jamie was able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to help her with her day-to-day expenses.  She also qualified for Medicaid to cover her healthcare needs. Without Medicaid, Jamie would not be able to receive the mental and physical healthcare she needs.

Jamie had neighbors come to help her immediately after the tornado hit her home.  She was safe.  They provided her a place to stay.  Others gave her food and gift cards to help her with whatever she needed.  Jamie stated that what kept her calm, before the tornado, was listening to her religious music CDs.  She asked her trust officer to replace the CD player and provide new CDs for her to listen to.  Jamie told of how, depending on her mood, listening to gospel singers such as CeCe Winans, The Gaithers, and rappers DMX gave her a feeling of peace, gave her hope and uplifted her spirit so she could function and make it past the feelings of paranoia.

Jamie’s request was approved and within two days, she had her music and was very happy.  She called the office once again, but this time when I spoke with her, she had feelings of hope.  Jamie said, “Thank you so much for the CD player and the music.  This is exactly what I needed.  You will never know how much my music means to me.  I can now face what has happened to my house.  I am slowly being able to trust the people, who I have never met before, that are coming to me offering assistance. You made a world of difference in my life. Thank you.”

Special needs trusts are designed to help people of any age who are living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability.  By establishing a special needs trust, the individual deposits his/her money into the trust. A personal checking account may contain up to $2,000 per month, for daily usage. The money in the trust is exempt from being considered an asset for the individual, thus allowing the person to qualify for much-needed government benefits, the most important being Medicaid to cover healthcare needs. The money in the special needs trust can be used to pay for items or services the benefits do not cover.

For Jamie, her trustee was there for her in her time of need as well as on a daily basis, looking out for her needs and helping her to live a good quality of life.  For Jamie’s family, who live in another state, they have peace of mind knowing their loved one is being cared for by professionals who look out for her best interest. 

Darlene A. Kemp, MPH, MBA-HCM, Executive Director, Vista Points Special Needs Trusts

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