Home > Uncategorized > Mother concerned that her developmentally disabled son is being lured into a dangerous ‘vacation’ in Mexico

Mother concerned that her developmentally disabled son is being lured into a dangerous ‘vacation’ in Mexico

Kris Myerson’s 30-year-old son is both autistic and schizophrenic and has periodic psychotic symptoms.

The man, whose name we are withholding due to privacy concerns, is incapable of taking care of himself, Myerson says. While he has very high verbal skills, he can’t recite the months of the year in order, for instance, or find his way to their car in a mall parking lot.

Myerson said her son is certainly not capable of going on a trip by himself to a different town much less a foreign country. Yet, she said, her son’s Northampton-based residential provider, ServiceNet, is allowing — and may even be encouraging  — him to accept  what appears to be a suspicious offer from one or more persons she does not know to fly to Mexico and meet them for a “vacation” next month.

Myerson’s son apparently hooked up with this person or people while playing Xbox online.

Myerson said one of those people reportedly told her son that he or she will pay for him to stay for a month in a hotel in Cancun once he meets them at the airport there. Also, Myerson’s son told her the person promised to provide him with a “girlfriend” during his stay.

According to Myerson, staff at ServiceNet recently helped her son apply for an expedited passport to enable him to take the trip to Mexico, which is scheduled for May 17. The group home personnel also reportedly offered to give her son a house cell phone for his use on the trip.

There may be no legal way for Myerson to stop her son from going to Mexico since he does not have a guardian and is over the age of 18.

Yet Myerson’s son qualifies for services from both the Department of Mental Health, which funds his ServiceNet group home, and from the Department of Developmental Services. She says that neither state agency appears to be willing or able to stop the trip.

In an April 14 email, Julie Schwager, DMH western Massachusetts area director, stated to Myerson’s daughter that DMH could not apply for an emergency guardianship of Myerson’s son because clinicians in the department have not determined that the man lacks the legal capacity to make his own decisions.

But Myerson believes her son does lack that capacity and is afraid her son could be harmed in Mexico. He weighs about 123 pounds and is 5′ 11” and is emaciated, she said. At the very least, she fears he will get lost there.

In the past eight months, Myerson said, her son has been hospitalized for overdosing on Advil and for self-starvation and dehydration while in ServiceNet’s care.

Myerson applied in 2014 to be her son’s guardian, but was unsuccessful because her son reportedly contested her application and because DMH sided with her son and against her bid for guardianship.

DMH has in the past sought a state-appointed guardian for Myerson’s son — a move that Myerson supported. But the agency backed off that effort and the guardianship never took place for reasons that were never explained to Myerson. She thinks it is possible that her son contested that effort as well. He apparently doesn’t realize that he is in need of a guardian.

Lately, Myerson has been unable even to get any information from DMH or DDS about the status of her son’s planned trip.

In an April 11 email to Myerson,  Schwager said that the agency’s authorization to talk to her about her son had been revoked. Without specifically mentioning the Mexico trip, Schwager added that, “Although it may be of little comfort, what I can say is that DMH works very closely with its providers in situations that we are concerned about to mitigate any potential risk.”

Myerson said she doesn’t understand why DMH is now saying its authorization to keep her informed about her son has been revoked. She maintains that her son never signed such an authorization in the first place, and yet DMH officials routinely communicated with her up to now about her son.

Myerson said her son recently asked that she become his representative payee for his Social Security disability income. For that reason, she said, she told Schwager that she needs to know what financial arrangements the group home may have made or is contemplating for her son’s trip.

In an April 10 email to Schwager, Myerson asked whether the money for the trip would be coming out of the group home’s funds or whether it would come from her son’s Social Security income.  However, that was the email to which Schwager said her agency’s authorization to respond had been revoked. As a result, Myerson has received no answer to that question.

Myerson said her son has about $1,000 in cash in his bank account and is expecting an $8,000 retroactive Social Security check.

I placed calls to Schwager yesterday and to the office of Daniel Lunden, DDS Central West regional director. The calls weren’t returned. I did talk to Daniela Trammel, DMH director of communications, who said the agency could not comment on the case.

A poor track record of care

Although ServiceNet personnel may consider themselves to be supportive of her son’s wishes, Myerson maintains that the agency is abetting him in potentially self-destructive behaviors. She contends the agency has a track record of making decisions like that concerning her son.

Myerson said that a couple of years ago, her son was initially placed in a ServiceNet group home in Greenfield where he was not given needed behavioral medications. He had a compulsion to injure himself, including burning his arms and other parts of his body with lighter fluid, and often went missing from the residence. She said ServiceNet failed to seek treatment for her son’s burns and allowed him to go for long periods without showering or changing his clothes.

A major police episode resulted after her son apparently purchased a knife at a Walmart in New Hampshire in May of 2015, using a credit card that a staff member at ServiceNet had given him. Myerson, who was with her son at the Walmart at the time, was unaware he had purchased the knife in the sporting goods section of the store until she was informed of it by a cashier. She said she was afraid to confront her son about it, but instead reported the matter to ServiceNet and to DMH.  But she said DMH refused to take the knife away from her son.

A week later, she said, she got a call at 1 in the morning that her son had been arrested for stabbing someone.  He was charged with attempted murder even though the person he stabbed was not severely injured and had actually attacked her son first. Her son was found innocent by a jury.

Myerson said her son had also had a prior criminal charge for biting a police officer’s finger during choke hold. He pled guilty and was placed on probation as a misdemeanor. He was sent to his current ServiceNet group home after having spent a year in the Worcester Recovery Center, a DMH hospital in which he badly decompensated. His probation reportedly ends next month, allowing him to leave the country at that time.

At the very least, we believe DMH clinicians should revisit their assessment of Myerson’s son’s mental and legal capacity to make his own decisions and consider filing for an emergency guardianship. We see no sound basis for this man’s decision to take this trip to Mexico and are troubled by the state’s apparent lack of concern about the situation.

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  1. Anonymous
    April 19, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Who is the state representative for the mother? Everyone who sees this post should be calling.

  2. April 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

    The mother lives in Vermont, but the state legislators for her son, whose group home is in Hadley, MA, are Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (Phone: 617-722-1500), and Representative John Scibak (617-722-2030).

  3. ses
    April 20, 2017 at 12:55 am

    The circumstances surrounding this trip are beyond suspicious & sketchy. It sounds so much like one of those internet horror stories we read about. I would ask these “clinician” who would not certify this gentleman needing assistance in making decisions or these caregivers if they would let one of their kids (with or without disabilities) go on this trip given the circumstances. Its incomprehensible ANYONE would be OK with it.

    It seems impossible that there is no other legal avenue available to this mother other than an emergency guardianship. Just about all police have people dedicated to looking for internet issues. How about bringing this to their attention? I think I would seek out legal advice, definitely independent from DDS/DMH and the state since it seems they are not acting in this man’s best interest. Frankly sounds like they don’t give a “bleep” what happens to this man. Who knows perhaps its possible to get some sort of injunction that will hold up the expedited passport and prevent her son from going anywhere while you bring whatever the complaint might be into a court.

  4. sandi
    April 20, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Call TILL and the Arc even though they are in mass they can help. Call austism supports center too. Beg them for help guiadance. Gather all records police and any SUPPORTING documents to build a case that on paper he is not capable of this decision.. Make a list of dates and circumstances of neglect. Do a criminal background check on yourself and get as many letters of recommendation from family, friends, proffessionals as you can on yoyr conduct and any supports others have known you to dp for your son. Till did my guardianship eval for my uncle he had to take a psych test to prove his incompetency. I am now his legal guardian. Even if you can get medical guardianship for doctor appts as he cannot medically understand and recieve medical info. Build a case as fast as you can. File a neglect case with the department human rights people. Start a petition on your behalf get as many signatures as possible; then call your local news station. There is a difference between human safety and human rights be as loud and as smart as you can!

  5. sandi
    April 20, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Continued: then go to the court and petition for guardianship yourself with all supporting documents

  6. Gloria
    April 20, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I ditto the comments above…this is a situation that makes you feel helpless to correct, but do continue to fight for your son. The whole travel seems very dubious and I would do everything I could to stop it. I have a special needs daughter and a few years ago I had to fight for her rights in a Group Home–I made a list of complaints (11 pages) of how my daughter was being mistreated. They wanted to kick her out without a meeting (as the law requires). I hired a lawyer and went to court, it was a private residence and they felt they did not have to follow the rules–the judge ruled for us, even though they are private, they are being reimbursed by the state and need to follow the rules. Thankfully my daughter is now in a caring and loving group home. I will pray for you and your son.

  7. sandi
    April 20, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    How can we assist this parent? With this blog what are the next steps if the parent has questions. I have a 55 year old uncle and it is upsetting what I have seen in the past 3 years. I understand human rights but 1/2 the individuals in group homes have medical needs that cannot be fully understood by the individual yet they have workers take them to these appointments, drive them, sign off on paperwork with the individual that they attendded the appointment and the worker doesnt speak in behalf of the individuals health need, the individual cannot paint an accurate picture to the doctor about their needs because they themselves don’t understand what they need. Perfect example, my uncle was peeing too much, he would never have told the doctor, the house staff doesn’t pay attention to any of his “red flag” behaviors. I noticed after 1 day with him out of the 7 days I don’t see him. Brought to doctor, explained symptoms and he was found to have enlarged prostate. Something needs to be done about the staff that is there to support them in all areas of life. He’s in a 24 hour home. I can’t imagine the houses that dont have 24 hour staff.

  8. sandi
    April 21, 2017 at 1:26 am

    What can we do here to assist? What is being done and by who? What are the next steps to help get awareness of this situation can we share the blog? Who to contact for further info?

    • April 21, 2017 at 1:29 am

      Feel free to share this blog, Sandi. One thing you can do is to call the state legislators who represent the district in which Kris Myerson’s son’s group home is located. The phone contact info for Senator Rosenberg and Representative Scibek is in this comment thread.

  9. Ed
    April 21, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    The circumstances surrounding this trip should be concerning for any person, handicapped or not. It clearly sounds predatory and DMH and ServiceNet need to act accordingly. Yes, guardianship, privacy, and decision-making rights are sticky issues. But regulations shouldn’t stand in the way of common sense when it comes to a person’s safety. Charles Dickens was right when he wrote, “The law is an ass.” If these agencies stand blindly behind absurd legalities, they should bear responsibility for any harm that might come to this man if this trip goes forward.

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