Gov. Charlie Crist has a rare quality. He sees the human being behind an injustice, and when the system screws up, he does something about it. Floridians saw that when Crist worked to compensate Alan Crotzer for the quarter-century he was wrongly imprisoned. Now the governor has before him another Crotzer moment.
The state Medicaid agency has told the family of an 18-year-old Hillsborough County student who was savagely beaten and raped in April she must leave a Sarasota rehabilitation hospital by the end of next week. Officials said the state paid for months of care not typically covered, and now it is time, in concert with the victim's family and doctors, to send her home or to a skilled nursing facility.
The girl was attacked outside a public library while returning a book. She was beaten unconscious and choked, her brain swelled and she slipped into a coma. She remains blinded by the attack and is relearning how to talk, swallow and move her arms and legs. Her mother, a Vietnamese immigrant, is broke. She doesn't have the money to retrofit her home or to pay for private care. Medicaid has not even been clear about what expenses it will absorb.
This mother has enough to worry about without fighting Medicaid. Doctors have said that physical therapy is critical in the first year after brain damage to assess whether a victim can regain a normal life. She needs to be in a setting most conducive for that to happen.
This should not be about what works for the bureaucracy. This is about helping a crime victim and a family that has nowhere else to turn. If the state convicts the teenager charged in the case, taxpayers could be paying for his imprisonment for the next 50 or 60 years. Yet the government is ready to force the victim out of her rehabilitation hospital after only a few months without a clear alternative or a means to pay for it.
Floridians are better than this, and this heartbroken family should not be left to fend for itself. The governor should get involved and ensure that this girl gets the treatment she deserves.