| News |

Photos: Chanda Hinton Leichtle is out to change how Medicaid treats spinal cord injuries

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

The fourteen-year-old boy who accidentally shot nine-year-old Chanda Hinton Leichtle in 1991 thought the rifle was unloaded. It wasn't, and the bullet severed her spinal cord and left her paralyzed below the chest. This week's feature, "Body Movin'," tells how Hinton Leichtle became an advocate for people with spinal cord injuries and embarked on a contentious journey to start a Medicaid pilot program involving acupuncture, massage therapy and chiropractic services.

The pilot program allows 67 adults with spinal cord injuries who live in five counties -- Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson -- to enroll in a new Medicaid waiver. Waivers are granted to states by the feds for the purpose of testing new ways of delivering health-care services. This particular waiver pays for participants to get acupuncture, massage and chiropractic services in addition to their other benefits.

Hinton Leichtle and her nonprofit foundation, The Chanda Plan Foundation, have created a Tumblr with information on how to enroll. The pilot program is on the brink of starting and will run until 2015. At that time, an evaluation of whether the program saved money (as proponents say it will) and made participants healthier (which proponents also claim) will be presented to lawmakers, who will decide whether to continue it.

Hinton Leichtle credits alternative therapies with saving her life. At 21, she began experiencing chronic pain. A terrible burning feeling would start at her feet and creep up, intensifying until it was hard for her to breathe. Doctors prescribed Percocet to treat the pain, but the pills' side effects made it impossible for her to eat. Her weight dropped to 59 pounds and she wound up in the hospital, bed-bound and weak.

Soon afterward, her sister suggested she try alternative therapies. Hinton Leichtle started with acupuncture and for the first time in years, she had no pain.

For more, read our feature, "Body Movin'."

Continue reading for more photos of Hinton Leichtle through the years. Continue for more photos of Hinton Leichtle. Continue for more photos of Hinton Leichtle today. More from our News archive: "Photos: Union Station is transforming from sleepy train stop to multi-modal hub."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.