Halfway house residents struggle to buy food, medicine after facility issues run of bad checks | Premium

Residents of a private halfway house in Colorado Springs say they struggled for weeks to access personal funds for food, medication and other necessities while their halfway house-issued checks were rejected by banks and check-cashing services.

The snag at Community Alternatives of El Paso persisted despite administrators’ promises to fix the problem and held up money that belongs to residents, who are required to hand over their paychecks and other income as a condition of their incarceration. The halfway house takes out money for rent and restitution and issues residents periodic allowances.

Remaining funds in the residents’ accounts are returned, minus any rent and restitution, after their release.  

Starting in late August, CAE’s bank, Community Banks of Colorado, repeatedly refused to honor the allowance checks, but not before some residents believed they had successfully deposited them.

The resulting confusion caused some residents to overdraw their personal checking accounts, deepening their financial woes as they prepared for release, several residents told The Gazette. Others were turned away from check-cashing services, forcing them to borrow money from family members and friends to cover their expenses.


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Although food is provided at CAE, many residents leave on work release and eat outside the facility, and others avoid the food that’s served, which comes from the El Paso County jail.

For Robert Thompson, the issue was the latest hurdle to obtaining a critical seizure medication while incarcerated at CAE.

After being transferred to CAE from the El Paso County jail in July, Thompson said he went two days without his daily medication. When administrators took him to an urgent care center after his repeated complaints, a provider there prescribed him half of his normal dose of 1,000 mg twice daily.

Thompson attributes his struggle over medications for contributing to seizures while in CAE custody that led to two trips by ambulance to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, where doctors restored his normal prescription and said his seizures could cause brain damage and even death.   

“They are endangering my life,” said Thompson, 59, who estimated that up to a third of the population — about 170 people as of August — struggled to access their money.

Thompson provided receipts from Walmart and King Soopers showing that his CAE checks were rejected by check-cashing services at a time he said he needed to refill his prescription. He contacted CAE and eventually managed to get the check cashed on a return trip and purchased a refill two days before running out.

He said Walmart and King Soopers had so many problems with checks from CAE that they stopped accepting them.

In a memo posted Sept. 23 at CAE, and obtained by the newspaper, administrators instructed inmates not to cash checks issued between Aug. 20-Sept. 22, citing a “system error at the bank.”  

Two other residents said they had checks returned prior to that period, and receipts examined by the newspaper showed problems continued afterward.


Coronavirus

The Daily 202: Trump tries frantically to make up lost ground with seniors, promising free medicine and checks

Other polls released over the last week show Biden leading among voters 65 and older, including in the battlegrounds of Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Pew’s survey was in the field from Wednesday, the day after the first presidential debate, through Monday, the day Trump checked himself out of Walter Reed after his three-night stay in the hospital. Pew’s unusually large sample size of 10,543 registered voters means smaller margins of error for subgroups, which allows for deeper analysis.

Trump and many of his top advisers see his weakness among seniors as an existential threat to his hopes for a second term, and the president is demanding that his aides use all the levers of the federal government to woo older voters who have drifted away during the final 25 days of the campaign.

The president tweeted a two-and-a-half minute video Thursday afternoon of himself speaking directly to seniors, whom he referred to as “MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.”

“I’m a senior,” the 74-year-old said to the camera. “I know you don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Maybe you don’t have to tell them, but I’m a senior.”

Trump said he was “very sick” when he went to the hospital, but the experimental antibody treatment he received helped him feel better immediately. He promised that he’s going to make sure that other seniors can also access the medicine he got by pushing the FDA to immediately authorize its emergency use. 

“They like to say ‘the vulnerable,’ but you’re the least vulnerable, but for this one thing, you are vulnerable. And so am I. But I want you to get the same care that I got,” Trump said. “You’re going to get the same medicine, you’re going to get it free, no charge, and we’re going to get it to you soon. … All free! … I do know what I’m doing. The seniors are going to be taken care of, and then everybody is going to be taken care of.”

Assuming the medication gets approved for wider use, doctors say there will not be enough doses to make it widely available and note that there are potentially significant side effects. Just as importantly, Trump cannot distribute any medicine free of charge unless he agrees to a coronavirus relief deal with Congress, something he has sent mixed messages about all week. Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the Democratic majority on the House Appropriations Committee, said Trump is lying: “Without new legislation, the Trump administration cannot make covid-19 treatment available for free.” 

About 4 in 5 of the 212,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus have been over the age of 65. This group is less antsy about getting workers back into offices or kids back into school. Many seniors have sacrificed a great deal, foregoing time with loved ones to avoid potential exposure to a virus they know is more likely to kill them.

After temporarily halting negative ads against Trump while he was hospitalized, the Biden campaign unveiled several new