Eye on the Ozarks: Lack of Deaf Services

Miss-Delectable

New Member
Eye on the Ozarks: Lack of Deaf Services

Twenty-five million dollars of your Missouri tax money this year will pay for the housing and care of 9,500 people labeled developmentally disabled or mentally ill.

Thousands of them live in long term residential care facilities including one young man in Nixa, who doesn't seem to belong. The state placed him and others like him in those types of facilities, even though the state admits it's not the most appropriate place for them.

Like many 22-year-olds, Sade Lopez enjoys playing video games. But unlike most 20-somethings, playing those games is all he has to do.

"Yes, pretty much all day, pretty much all night," says Lopez.

That's because Sade lives in a residential care facility where no one speaks his language, American Sign Language.

He says, "I don't have any friends here. I don't know anybody here. Everybody's hearing and I'm the only deaf person here."

"Residential care facilities are not set up to have a deaf client," adds Julie Cook, administrator of the residential care facility where Sade lives, Life Enhancement Village in Nixa. "There's a lack of communication there. It's frustrating because you wonder how much he understands."

Sade says at the top of a long list of things he doesn't understand is why the state of Missouri placed him in the facility three years ago.

He says, "I'm not like these people here. I'm deaf, but I don't have problems like these people do. I feel pretty angry right now. I just want to move. I want to be out of here. I would like to get a job. I could clean the restrooms, could clean windows, could do a lot of work."

But, the state of Missouri says, right now, the residential care facility is the best it can do for Sade.

"Because at least some of the staff are trying to communicate or deal with that situation," explains Clay McGranahan with the Springfield Regional Centerserves, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities throughout Southwest Missouri as part of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. "It's not ideal, but it's been okay, good for him because that's what there was."

State workers like McGranahan have been searching for a better place for Sade since 1997 when the Division of Family Services took custody of him due to parental neglect.

"My real mom hit us and there was a water pipe that she had used and hit me on my back." says Sade.

Sade's file shows there weren't "many foster homes that sign," so they placed him in homes where people couldn't communicate with him. He "became violent" and even "ran away." On a couple of occasions, he ended up in "local hospitals" because people "refused to take him."

One of those stays was in 1997 at St. John's Marian Center. After a week there, social worker Gary Boone wrote a letter to state workers saying "even with the assistance of very skilled and qualified interpreters, we were not equipped to meet Sade's therapeutic needs due to his deafness and the barriers that this represents in this hearing environment." Boone recommended placement for Sade in a "specialized residential facility for the deaf." "Without that type of attention," he wrote, "Sade's condition could potentially worsen and have damaging implications."

KOLR/KSFX found Boone eleven years after he wrote that letter.

"This is a kid who really has had a lot of disruption in his life and being deaf makes it even more difficult to navigate through those difficulties and it would require some sort of specialized service to get his feet on the ground," says Boone today.

Despite Boone's recommendation, the state placed Sade in eight more foster homes, hospitals or group homes, where many times no one signed to him and for several years he didn't even go to school.

"It saddens me to think that Sade has had to endure that for all these years and it's saddening and frustrating to think that he hasn't been able to fulfill what he needs in life to fulfill, and it's no one's fault, but the fault of the system, I suppose," says Boone.

Deaf advocates say it's a broken system with more than just Sade falling through its cracks.

"That's the sad part," says Barry Critchfield, Director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf. "I'm aware of other individuals that are in similar or even worse situations than Sade and the simple process of bringing those people together in a single apartment or home and having staff available to teach to them to become more independent; to me it seems like a no brainer."

Other states including South Carolina have done just that. There, the McKinney House has a full staff of American Sign Language trained workers and a psychiatrist. They teach deaf residents life skills, including how to get a job. Many move from there to live on their own.

"I'd like to live by myself," says Sade.

The only skills Sade is picking up at his current facility, video game skills, aren't preparing him to live independently in the hearing world.

He says, "I really want to move elsewhere. It's really boring here."

And that has him feeling like he's playing a video game he's not allowed to win.

Several presentations have been made to state committees and workers proposing a transitional residential facility for the deaf in Missouri, but it's never happened. Proponents for that type of facility say the state has the money for it, it just needs to be reallocated

For example, it currently costs about $30,000 a year for Sade's services. The Department of Mental Health serves 328 other deaf people, many of them like Sade. If that money was used for a transitional residential facility for the deaf, many believe their care would cost less in the long run. Plus, many believe it would provide a better life for people like Sade.
 

Dixie

Farting Snowflakes
Premium Member
Why cant they just transfer Sade to Little Rock to ASD where he can pick up some life skills and possibly get a job as a maintenance worker for ASD?? My God why do they have to use the hardest solution when the easiet one is RIGHT THERE! All they have to do is contact ASD and the ADH.
 

Dixie

Farting Snowflakes
Premium Member
Shoot why not send him to St. Louis. Don't they have deaf residential school there?
 

Wokamuka

New Member
Barry Critchfield was one of the leaders in setting up North Carolina's (or was it South?) impressive Deaf Mental Health program. He's been trying to get Missouri's set up with no chance of an overnight success. It would appear Missouri's government couldn't care less.
 

Dixie

Farting Snowflakes
Premium Member
This is why we need more people to step forward and help these kids before they fall away for good.
 

Wokamuka

New Member
There are people stepping forward or getting diagnosed . . . oh, you mean those who care about the mentally ill? That's a whole 'nother story there.
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
I know................ditto! I mean why not just have him transferred to MSD or even American School for the Deaf (in CT)?
 

Wokamuka

New Member
At 22, I think he's too old to be transferred to a school for the deaf. The article does not explain if Sade is developmentally disabled or mentally ill. Either way, I'm not sure it would be appropriate for him to be around children.

For the Sade's sake, I hope Missouri sends him to where there are services. (Maryland has many developmentally disabled/mentally ill residential, transitional housing, and even out patient programs. All are staffed by those who are fluent in A.S.L. and/or Deaf.) They've kicked him around while warehousing him for too long.
 

Dixie

Farting Snowflakes
Premium Member
Well he wouldnt necessarily have to be housed in a dorm with a student, but he can stay there in a private dorm while he takes some life skills classes and what not or least stay in an apartment close to campus - with the state paying for it of course.
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
Well, initially they should have sent him to a Deaf School. Deaf Schools are perfect placements for kids who are dhh foster kids.
 
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