by Carol Denney, Advocate, Berkeley, CA
It all began in the den, Arleen's mother, who had done the family paperwork all of her life, was ill, and was incapable of dealing with the blizzard of papers generated by her illness.
Arleen's father thought deciding which health insurance to buy should be the end of matters. Arleen recalls him cursing, willing not to collect any benefits easier to just pay the bills rather than sort through the labyrinth of forms.
Arleen Goodwin (Co-Founder and Director) laughs as she remembers the innocence of the early days. She and Joan Kloehn, friends since high school, teamed up with little more than their conviction that someone should do something about this extraordinary burden on the elderly, a conviction that created the nonprofit now known as Senior Medi-Benefits.
In 1988 they incorporated themselves as a nonprofit organization using a book from Nolo Press as their guideline. As a start-up, people began to notice, and word of mouth spread from grateful clients to relatives and friends overwhelmed by the chaos of a constantly changing medical system.
Today, Senior Medi-Benefits is the only nonprofit organization in California specifically focusing on Medi-Cal eligibility for long term care while maintaining its reputation as can-do red tape warriors for the frail and elderly.
Keeping up with a whirlwind of political, legal and technological change is part of the picture, but the heart of the matter is two women, with wit and determination, saw a human need and over the years successfully transformed their program services to meet the current healthcare needs for older adults and infirm elderly.
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