When a lack of support can mean a hospital or jail visit

NOW: Lack of crisis beds

NORWAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- According to case management workers, when an adult with disabilities is in limbo waiting for services or support, they can go into crisis mode; and when they do, the only place that can help is full, so they end up in hospitals or in jail.

They're taking up space that's meant for medical emergencies, simply because there's nowhere else to go.
 
"We have a client that currently is unable to access the services he needs," said But Ashleigh Barker, Director of Case Management and Children's Services at The Progress Center.
 
His family could no longer care for him at home, but finding the right residential fit has been a challenge; something case workers throughout the state have seen.
 
"If you can't get into residential, then it's difficult to get to school, or get to community resources, or get to work and it kind of all just piles on until it creates a crisis situation," said Barker.
 
Crisis situation could mean anything from that individual harming themselves or others to becoming homeless; and the number of crisis beds for those individuals has dropped by nearly half. The fewer than 10 beds are all full, which is why so many others end up in emergency rooms or in trouble. 
 
A spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services says the department is committed to eliminating wait lists, saying in part: "in the last biennial budget the Governor sought an increase of $46 million in funding to reduce waiting lists for services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Ultimately the Legislature only funded a portion of these requests ($16 million for the waitlists), leaving considerable funding requirements for our neediest and most vulnerable Mainers."
 
LD 967 is awaiting approval in the legislature, but it increases the amount direct support professionals are reimbursed, which could help staff crisis centers. Right now, those workers make close to minimum wage, Barker says, and in a high stress job, most don't stick around long, leaving clients like hers to fall through the cracks.
 
"He could be extremely independent and be somebody who would be successful in this community," said Barker. "He would have a job and relationships with other individuals, and contribute to other people, and that's what important."
 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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