By Eli Davis
Former Maryland basketball star Walt Williams and his family traveled with Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital to Washington D.C. on June 23-25 and advocated for children’s health care during the annual Family Advocacy Day event.
The issue is close to the Williams’ heart as their youngest son, Bryce, was born prematurely at 24 weeks and with cerebral palsy. Immediately following his birth, Bryce spent time receiving specialized care at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. Bryce has since returned to the children’s hospital multiple times for a variety of procedures.
Representatives from 40 children’s hospitals met with congressmen and advocated for the federal government to continue its funding of Medicaid, an assistance program for low-income families, as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a supplemental coverage program. The program is in danger of being cut, according to Richard Katz, the chief medical officer at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.
“We want to reinforce the need for continued support by the federal government for medical assistance for children,” Katz said. “The main purpose is to put faces in front of congressmen. These are real stories that affect real people.”
Some form of medical assistance covers 75 percent of Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital’s patients’ healthcare and 125,000 children in Maryland rely on CHIP.
“Here’s our opportunity to really do something about it,” said Williams, who played at Maryland from 1988-92. “Being able to continue funding will definitely give those kids a start.”
The Williams family is fortunate to not have to rely on assistance programs.
“Walt’s story was a little bit different,” said Sheldon Stein, president and CEO of Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. “It is a very unique twist to our normal story. He [Walt] really spoke as an advocate for the other families.”
“Going through the situation really made it personal for me,” Williams said. “It brings to reality the importance of Medicaid and how it helps the community.”