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State’s Emergency Aid Offer Too Late for Dead Woman

November 23, 1991

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ Eva Frederick started rationing her blood pressure medicine to make it last after she and more than 82,000 others were removed from Michigan’s General Assistance program on Oct. 1.

On Oct. 28, a blood vessel burst in her brain and she died Wednesday in a Traverse City hospital at the age of 51.

Her daughter, Charlotte Jenkins, went to the Department of Social Services office Friday to fill out forms to get the state to pay for her mother’s death expenses.

″The lady looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Mrs. Jenkins, if there’s anything more we can do for you, just give me a call,’ ″ said Jenkins, the oldest of six daughters.

″Well, a hell of a lot of good it’s going to do Ma now.″

Though Frederick’s doctor refused to say if there was a link, the family blames the state cuts for her death.

In Lansing on Friday, the state Supreme Court on Friday slammed the door on efforts to revive the General Assistance program. In a two-paragraph order, the court refused to hear an appeal of the program’s elimination.

Frederick had been getting $434 from General Assistance.

Two weeks ago, Frederick told a Traverse City Record-Eagle reporter she had applied for emergency aid to pay for her medicine.

Manistee County social services director Mark Hendges said there was no record of Frederick’s request.

But a neighbor in Copemish says Frederick used her phone to call the social services office. The neighbor’s telephone bill shows calls to the agency on Oct. 7 and Oct. 15.

There was no guarantee Frederick would have qualified for the emergency program. A Social Services spokesman in Lansing said Thursday that blood pressure medicine is not considered life saving.

The day after Frederick died, the Michigan Legislature approved a bill restoring $51 million to an emergency needs program. Social Services spokesman Chuck Peller in Lansing said the money will be available Dec. 1 and some of it will be used to cover prescriptions for former General Assistance clients like Frederick.

Peller said a stopgap program existed to help people in her position.

State Rep. Tom Power said he reviewed the program after Frederick’s death ″to find out if there was a hole in the system here.″ The only fault he said he found was in the Legislature’s five-week delay in restoring the emergency needs program.

Jenkins blames her mother’s death on Gov. John Engler, who ordered the welfare cuts. She is writing a letter to the governor.

″I told him my mother is dead and I hold him personally responsible. I’m angry,″ she said.

Engler spokesman John Truscott said people in dire situations should call his office for help.

″It’s certainly a tragedy, and we send our deepest sympathies to the family, but it’s our every intention to cover people like this,″ Truscott said. ″If there was a holdup in the system, we want to look into where the problem was.″

Frederick’s body was donated to the University of Michigan medical school in Ann Arbor, fulfilling her wish ″to have a part of her around forever,″ Jenkins said. ″She was a big one on not wasting anything.″

The cost of disposing of Frederick’s body will likely be paid for by the Department of Social Services.

″They told me that everything will be taken care of, that her medical has been approved,″ Jenkins said. ″Of course, it’s too late.″