ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As businesses and facilities begin to reopen in the age of COVID-19, families who have loved ones in adult group homes are asking for some guidance from Albany. The Palumbos say they’ve waited long enough to see their son, Joey.
“We didn’t realize it was going to be this hard,” says Lisa Palumbo, whose son is autistic, and lives in a group home with other adults with developmental disabilities. They have not seen him in over three months.
“They haven’t put us in a phase. We at first thought we’d be in the same phase as something like nursing homes,” says Lisa.
She says there are individual guidelines from companies that run the facilities, but nothing concrete from Albany. Monday they were told she can now see their son, but under strict guidelines.
“It’s only a half-hour. It has to be outside,” says Lisa. She adds if Joey, who she says is very affectionate, makes contact with his folks, he has to be isolated for 14 days in quarantine. A monitor will have to intervene and break up any touching, something Lisa says will only add to the confusing situation for Joey.
“He’s my little guy. I just can’t go this long without him,” says Joey’s father, Joseph Palumbo, tearing up. Joseph says his son was reaching out over the phone, but that faded. “He doesn’t do it anymore,” he says. He doesn’t know if his son is upset, confused, or just doesn’t want to talk.
Rachel Rosner with AutismUp says consistent routines, and extended in-person contact for autistic people is critical for well-being. She says individual homes are making up inconsistent rules. “I really, really hope that OPWDD will step in with some guidelines,” says Rosner.
The Office of People With Developmental Disabilities did give a statement to News 8 saying:
“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. Guidance has been issued to providers of OPWDD services to provide families with opportunities to maintain contact with their loved ones during this time through window visits, using technology or over the phone. 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. All COVID-19 related guidance issued by OPWDD can be found at https://opwdd.ny.gov/coronavirus-guidance.”
— Jennifer O’Sullivan, Director of Communications
For the Palumbos, they say normalcy for those in group homes and their families can’t wait any longer. “I just can’t go without him anymore,” says Joseph tearing up again.
The Palumbos says they will be holding a rally in front of OPWDD Monday, June 15 at 10 a.m. at 620 Westfall Road in Rochester.