Harley Will Get the Help He Needs

As you no doubt recall — because you read this esteemed publication with the feverish devotion of virgins to Joss Whedon, don’t you? — last week’s Backpage Editorial, “Florida’s Unseen Shame,” recounted the day-to-day horrors and hardships of one local mother’s life caring for her severely disabled autistic son. That editorial went to press, however, before Michele Sheffield received the good news: Harley, her adult son, will receive the services he needs to safely place him in an appropriate group home.

“He’s funded for intensive behavior services, including a day program,” says Elisa Morris, Harley’s support coordinator for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). Morris has submitted two crisis documentation packets to the local APD over the last 18 months. The local unit then sends these packets to its state-level counterpart to trigger services.

On Morris’ first try, in mid-2012, the state signed only on services far below what Harley needs, according to personnel at the group home his mother selected. The facility’s director refused to accept Harley at that funding level, citing concerns about Harley’s safety and the safety of caregivers and other residents. Try two, however, has gotten the desired results: On Christmas Eve, Sheffield received a letter from APD in which the agency agreed that Harley needs round-the-clock care from trained behaviorists.

“I think we might have a Christmas miracle,” Sheffield says. It’s a miracle not just for Harley, but for his mother as well. Caring for Harley had meant ignoring her own health issues; in a very real sense, her survival, as well as his development, depended on the state paying for this group home.

The next step, Morris says, is to find out if that group home can once again take Harley in, now that the money’s there. Sheffield’s struggle isn’t over, but at least now there’s light at the end of the tunnel.