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'Unsung heroes' recognized in Florida

Jake Chalkey, 22, and his mother receieved the Unsung Hero award from the Foundation for Government Accountability. The mother-son pair have been advocates for health care change, specifically relating to medications not covered after the Affordable Care Act was expanded on through Medicaid.
Jake Chalkey, 22, and his mother receieved the Unsung Hero award from the Foundation for Government Accountability. The mother-son pair have been advocates for health care change, specifically relating to medications not covered after the Affordable Care Act was expanded on through Medicaid.

Christine Chalkey said she isn’t afraid to reach across the aisle, or the country in order to advocate for others like her son.

The rural Streator native was invited to an annual Foundation for Government Accountability conference in Florida and was honored to receive the foundation’s Unsung Hero award, which was given to both Chalkey and her 22-year-old son, Jake.

“It was refreshing,” Chalkey said. “I felt we’d go down to speak and to be welcomed by those that wanted to hear our story and truly make a difference and help. It was emotionally and spiritually uplifting.”

Chalkey has worked with the foundation in the past, sharing she and her son's personal story of the difficulties they encountered as a result of expanding the Affordable Care Act through Medicaid.
Jake’s brain is malformed in several areas that lead to a variety of side effects, including seizures.
The family hit roadblocks when they were told the medicine Jake required was no longer covered and the law that allowed for that medicine no longer existed.
Chalkey reached out to local legislators, government groups and the head of the Illinois Department of Health Services in 2013 and repeatedly was told the same information.
The family managed to have the medicine covered by a drug company for a time, but they didn't stop reaching out to those who would listen. Eventually, they reached a lawyer who had filed a lawsuit on behalf of those in a similar situation.
Jake's condition was different than the ones he was defending, but he told the family the law was still in effect and the medicine should be covered. It was eventually reinstated.
"They were either ill-informed or did it willing," Chalkey said. "I don't know which."
Chalkey said she continues working with legislators on behalf of others in similar situations.
“I’m not against any legislator, I’m not against any group of people,” Chalkey said. “I’d love if we could take care of everyone, but I have to stand up for those that are being hurt the most.”
The pair arrived at the conference expecting to only give a speech, but were told upon arrival they would receive the award.
“It was surprising and the complete validation of all the work we’ve been doing here in Illinois,” Chalkey said. “It made it worth the time, effort, struggles and pushback to meet some outside of Illinois who get this and want to ensure Medicaid remains for the truly most vulnerable.”
There was some concern the flashing lights may lead to a seizure for Jake, but with the exception of a minor seizure caused by the excitement the event was a success.
Jake said he appreciated being recognized, and he enjoyed side trips to the beach and to visit family.
Chalkey said she used the experience to meet with legislators across the country and was encouraged by the support she received.
“I’m looking really forward to working with a few of them,” Chalkey said. “Some have already sent messages back.”

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