From News12 Long Island:
Parents of people with autism or developmental disabilities say their children are being left out during the pandemic, and they want answers.
News 12 spoke to the parents of three men with autism or developmental disabilities who live in group homes or take part in day programs, provided by the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, or OPWDD.
Due to the state’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, families were told back on March 17 that OPWDD was temporarily suspending services statewide, meaning for some, they could not visit their loved one in a group home and day programs were not happening.
Families say they are concerned about a lack of attention placed on reopening plans for group homes in terms of visitation, day programs and day-to-day needs.
As businesses in New York open up in phases, parents say people with special needs are not being prioritized in the reopening plans. They say they want to hear from the state about what phase group homes are in and a plan for how those facilities will unpause.
“It just feels like we’ve been forgotten, our children, that they’ve been overlooked,” said Suzanne Reek. “You know, we talk about people being able to get a tattoo, but yet we can’t even spend time with our children.”
Reek is the executive director of the Nassau/Suffolk Chapter of the Autism Society and says the families she represents have repeatedly reached out to state officials for answers about the reopening plan for group homes.
Parents say the state’s new rules left them with a horrible choice: leave their loved one in a group home with no visits or take them home. Russell Snaith brought his son home.
“I’ve seen concern and distressed looks on his face, because he’s non-verbal, as to ‘Why am I not going to my day program? Why am I not seeing my housemates? Why can’t I go back to my house?'” said Snaith.
Parents say with other businesses and services in line to reopen, they are desperate for information about when it’s their turn.
A representative with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities tells News 12 they are working with the Department of Health to safely begin returning to regular activities, including phasing in programs and visitations, but did not give a date.