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Jean BattyDo you know what a “disability accommodations ombudsperson” is? And if so, did you know that MassHealth has one? Our ombudsperson is Jean Batty. She’s held this position for about two years, and can be found at 100 Hancock Street in North Quincy. Despite being monumentally busy with her job, Jean agreed to answer a few questions and provide some information about both her and her job.

Have you worked for the state before this?

While getting my Master’s in Public Administration at Suffolk, I interned at the Architectural Access Board in the Department of Public Safety, where I helped process complaints about physical access to buildings and programs.

Where else have you worked?

I am returning to the workforce after having taken off time to raise our children. Our youngest child was born 11 years ago with a serious birth defect of his spinal cord, called spina bifida. My lived experience managing his health conditions and navigating the health and insurance systems provides an excellent foundation for my position. I have been there and done that. Our son has MassHealth as a secondary insurance. This additional coverage has made all the difference in keeping our family intact and thriving. There are many things that commercial insurance does not cover, like PCA services. Having nursing and PCA support allowed me the time to meet the needs of the rest of our family.

What kinds of questions do you get?

A big focus of my job is assisting the hearing- and visually impaired populations navigate MassHealth. These populations often have incomplete information in terms of what MassHealth can provide for them. Because my direct desk number is also published, I tend to get calls from people with unusual problems that they have not been able to resolve through normal business channels. My calls can be very interesting: “No, MassHealth does not cover service dog training!”

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Some days the phone rings off the hook! Believe it or not, I now have three phone lines to manage my work. I do have to screen my calls in order to triage the order in which I provide assistance. And sometimes our members don’t understand polite or professional conduct; that can be tough. Sometimes they think I have a magic wand, which I don’t.

The most rewarding?

I have had some really rewarding cases. Some that come to mind include a brain-injured twenty-something woman, with family in California, who needed immediate insurance to access a specialized program that has shown great promise if treatment begins quickly. We were able to get her qualified for this treatment program within hours, not days… Being able to help a woman with ALS, and without family members, access a needed communication device. Now she can make her needs known to her caregiver. I actually just spoke with her via her speech device over the phone. She was so funny! I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to help someone get their voice back…Helping a deaf homeless woman access ASL services for the birth of her child…

How was your experience at this year’s Abilities Expo?

My 10-year-old son loves the Abilities Expo. We have been going for years, back to when the Expo started in New Jersey. His favorite activities at the Expo are testing the accessible vehicles and hand cycles.

Did you learn about any new technologies?

We saw some fabulous new wheels for wheelchairs that allow better transport over problematic surfaces.

What would you like people to know about your job and the people you serve?

I don’t think I ever knew how much I enjoy helping people until I took this job. While I spend a lot of time down in the weeds, my position also allows me to see trends that people with disabilities face. One of the biggest problems is noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related regulations. A significant weakness of the ADA is lack of enforcement. There aren’t any ADA police! The burden of ADA enforcement falls on the shoulders of individuals with disabilities themselves. This population should not have to constantly fight for what they need. Often people don’t understand that the ADA is actually a civil-rights law. The ADA has accomplished a lot in the last 25 years, but there is plenty more to do.

Family? Hobbies/avocations?

I have been married to my husband, Scott, for nearly 29 years. We are a former Army family, very happy to settle back in Massachusetts (go, Sox!). We have three children and live on the South Shore with three chickens, two cats, and one in-training service dog. In my spare time, I garden using an aquaponics technique that includes breeding tilapia.

I’ve also learned that the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women honored Jean at the State House. She was named an Unsung Heroine in 2012 for her efforts to secure more than two million dollars in federal funding to make a local commuter-rail station accessible. Click here for the full story and information about more of Jean’s efforts.

 


Adapted from an article by Joe Luca from the MassHealth Operations Newsletter

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