Debbie Silverstein

My Healthcare Story

Shortly after I retired from teaching in 2005, my brother was arrested again and jailed for DUI and driving on a suspended license. He could have been charged with grand theft auto as well, but mom and dad didn’t press those charges.

My brother had long suffered from numerous addiction problems as well as mental health problems, but even though he had worked most of his adult life, he had never received treatment due to lack of health insurance. I had spent an afternoon that spring talking him down off a bridge over the interstate and I knew the roller coaster ride had to end. Not only was he suffering, the whole family was affected and family relationships suffered. Due to the stress of the situation, I ended up on anti-depressants for a short time.

I wrote to the judge and to the public defender requesting a psychological evaluation for my brother, explaining his situation. The public defender wouldn’t request it because it would have jeopardized a treatment program for the alcohol dependency and the judge wouldn’t order it because the courts did not want to assume responsibility for the costs of the evaluation or the treatment.

Caught in this limbo, my brother did fail the program he was assigned to and ended up serving almost a year in jail with treatment for nothing. The shame of the situation is that he really is a talented individual, but without the care he needed, my brother would never have the opportunity to achieve his full potential and be a contributing member of society.

I knew at this juncture that my next campaign would be for a healthcare system that was more just, but I didn’t know what that was. About a year later a physician came and talked to a group I belonged to about single payer health care. I was hooked. It all made sense and answered all the concerns I had. That night, I got involved and I have been ever since, now serving as State Director of the Single Payer Action Network of Ohio. And while we haven’t achieved Single Payer yet, we, and I, have accomplished much to help people in Ohio, starting with the Medicaid expansion. My brother now has health coverage due to that.

City/Town: Kent, Ohio
Organization: Single Payer Action Network Ohio
Email: span [at]