By BETHANY PROBST of Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – From the moment doctors announced she would have to have intensive foot surgery, Prince George County resident Janice Joyner knew she would have to pay for more than just a procedure.
A mobility device was necessary for his recovery. However, Joyner said, Medicare couldn’t cover the cost of the scooter.
“I was looking online for some type of equipment that could help me and I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it,” she said.
After extensive Google searches, she said she came across Maryland’s Sustainable Medical Equipment Reuse Program.
This program provides Maryland residents with free equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, scooters, and even pediatric equipment that has been disinfected and repaired.
Applicants do not have to meet income requirements to receive equipment.
Marylanders with a disability, illness or injury can receive this equipment regardless of their age, according to the program’s website.
Joyner said she thought the program was too good to be true.
“At first I was skeptical (wondering) ‘Why does this place have free resources?’ She said. “But it was all true there and I was amazed.”
Health care costs for people with disabilities in Maryland can reach $ 21,118 per person each year, according to a 2019 Disability and Health Data Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After a month and a half of mobility assistance, Joyner said, she plans to return her scooter to the program headquarters for another person to use.
“Before, I could only jump five steps to my bathroom and back,” she said. “Having this scooter got me out of bed. “
Ten percent of adults in Maryland have a mobility-related disability, according to the CDC report.
This makes it the highest reported disability among other types such as cognitive impairment, self-care, and independent living.
Program director Ian Edwards said that despite many attempts to raise awareness about the program, many people still don’t know it exists.
“We started things in January, but with the fears related to COVID, we weren’t sure how the program would be viewed as it is equipment that is already in use,” he said.
Once the majority of Marylanders received their shots, Edwards said more equipment began to be released to the public in March.
“We had a lot of difficulties at the start,” he said. “But the equipment is (now) there and we have it ready for people who have no other way to get it.”
Edwards said the program has received more than 5,000 items since collections began.
While the program is not currently working, he said they have several satellite sites across the state where people can pick up equipment.
The program hosts 11 donation centers across the state, including three large landfills where people can drop off their equipment.
Edwards told Capital News Service they have partnered with county landfills to install containers and raise awareness about the reuse program.
He said that while the program serves to help residents, they also want to ease financial strains among other contributors.
“Whether it’s the healthcare system, hospital providers or even medicare,” he said. “If we can save them some money, with the inventory we have now, we hope to help them in any way.”
Aging Secretary Rona Kramer said Maryland is the first state to offer this statewide sustainable reuse program.
“There are very few programs in the country that are this large,” she said. “We have the most sophisticated. We bring people back to life. “
More information about the program: https://aging.maryland.gov/pages/DME.aspx
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Capital News Service at the University of Maryland.
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