ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Many local families and advocates are applauding Governor Andrew Cuomo’s authorization of summer school programs for students with developmental disabilities who are following Individualized Education Programs. However, many say they would like to see him take it a step further and help out the adult population as well by opening up day habilitation programs, too.
Many of these adults need similar occupational, physical and speech therapies. They also work on developing social and life skills, including learning how to work and cook their own meals.
“Similar to the IEPs and education programs, they have individualized plans where they’re working on goals,” said Elaine Hickey.
Hickey’s 27-year-old daughter, Emily, lives in a group home. She said Emily, like many others living with special needs, thrives on routine and structure.
“Monday through Friday her day hab is gone. Saturdays, her visits with mom and dad are gone, and Sunday, her going to church is gone. So, her whole world has been turned upside down,” said Hickey.
Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I-Ballston) is joining forces with Assemblywoman Melissa “Missy” Miller (R,C,I-Atlantic Beach), to advocate for the safe and responsible reopening of group home visitation and Day Hab programs.
“Although I’m ecstatic that Gov. Cuomo has finally authorized summer school programs for students with IEPs, New Yorkers of all ages and abilities still need our help,” said Walsh.
She told NEWS10 ABC, that while she’s happy to see businesses and churches reopening, she wants to ensure that adults living with developmental disabilities are not left behind. Assemblywoman Walsh said many families have also not been able to visit their children at group homes for months, and that it’s taking a toll on their mental health.
Emily’s mother, Elaine, agrees.
“Just about every morning after breakfast, she goes back to bed, and now, every day after lunch she goes back to bed, and we all believe that she’s depressed. She has no reason to stay up, she has nothing scheduled, she has nothing to do,” said Hickey.
Hickey said she would at least like to be able to visit her daughter in the backyard of the group home with face masks and social distancing.
Administrators at AIM Services in Saratoga Springs told NEWS10 they’re in touch regularly with the New York State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities to figure out where they stand in the reopening process.
“We’re all currently working together, the state, provider associations, agencies like us, to plan ahead so that when we do get the green light we have a plan in place to serve those who are most in need of services as soon as we’re able to,” said Joshua Phelps, Director of Administration for AIM Services.
NEWS10 reached out to OPWDD and received the following statement:
“OPWDD understands how challenging the temporary suspension of day services, home visits, and community outings has been for the people we support and their families during the COVID-19 global pandemic response. As regions across New York are now starting to re-open, OPWDD is working closely with the NYS Department of Health to establish a process to safely begin returning to regular activities, including a phased-in approach to the resumption of community-based programs and visitations.”New York State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities
Assemblywoman Walsh said, in addition to an online petition, she and Assemblywoman Miller have sent letters to Governor Cuomo, Dr. Kastner of OPWDD and Dr. Zucker of the Department of Health.
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