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Chanda Hinton Leichtle is on a mission. The 36-year-old, who has quadriplegia—she survived an accidental gunshot wound when she was nine—is working with state legislators to expand the Spinal Cord Injury Waiver by the end of this quarter. The measure, launched in 2015, mandates that Health First Colorado (the state’s Medicaid program) cover alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and chiropractic services, for residents with spinal cord injuries. Leichtle, founder of the Chanda Center for Health in Lakewood (opened in 2017), hopes to broaden the coverage to include people with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and brain injuries and extend it to 10 more Colorado counties.
The effort is driven by Leichtle’s own story: After 12 years of conventional treatments left her near death, she took a chance on acupuncture, massage, chiropractic services, and physical therapy. “They saved my life,” she says. “They eliminated my chronic pain without pain meds. They helped my blood circulation and mental clarity. These services offer good outcomes at lower costs, saving taxpayer dollars. Expanding the waiver is a no-brainer.”