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SCVNews.com | Cheerful Place Needed For 20-Somethings With Special Needs | 10-03-2011
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Erin Walgamuth received a letter last week from Medi-Cal stating that Dec. 1, all Adult Day Care Facilities in California are closing.

For six hours a day, Walgamuth’s 30 year old daughter with special needs is able to enjoy activities at the Santa Clarita Adult Day Care center. That allows her daughter to have stimulating interaction and her parents to continue working.

That is ending.

Heather went all through school in Santa Clarita from the time she was 2 until she was 22 years old.

That option ended, too.

“In the state of California children can go to special education until the age of 22 and after that you are basically on your own,” Walgamuth said.

If a family is fortunate enough to have a high-functioning special needs child there are some choices for them, according to Walgamuth.

“In our case our daughter Heather is not high functioning and I started researching where she was going to go about two years before she graduated. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing available.

The best the Walgamuths could find was the Santa Clarita Adult Day Care Center, but that was not an ideal situation.

“It was a lovely place. Very caring people. But obviously there’s mostly elderly people,” Walgamuth said.

Heather has been there for eight years.

“You would think in a city like Santa Clarita, where we’re supposed to be a family community, that there would be some place for these young adults to go, when you consider there are 3,000 children in special ed in Santa Clarita right now. And those kids have no place to go after they graduate from high school. That’s pretty sad,” Walgamuth said.

The situation is not like that everywhere.

“In the Pasadena area there are numerous programs that provide services for people in the lower, moderate range. It’s almost a case of too many programs. This void out in Santa Clarita is anomaly for some reason or another.  Just really odd,” said Pearline Burnside, Regional Director, All People Access Community Services (APAC).

Walgamuth has been working with Claire Moynihan, Executive Director of APAC, and Burnside as well as Marty Lieberman, Director of Special Education for the William S. Hart  School District to open a site in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Lieberman told Walgamuth and APAC the need is growing for special needs students who matriculate out of the school programs.

“In regular education the numbers are sort of dropping off, in Santa Clarita, in Special Education just opposite is happening,” Walgamuth said.

Everyone agrees there is a need, but like any program there is a need for funding – more specifically a building to house the program.

“If we can find a way to find low cost housing or a building or bricks and mortar, whatever you want to call it. Then we can do it because we have the know-how to do it,” Burnside said.

“The plan is to have a cheerful, sunny, safe place to go where the young people can learn basic life skills such as cooking and doing laundry to gardening and social events such as dances,” said Walgamuth.

Below are the building specifications APAC is seeking.

APAC will need a 5,000-10,000 square foot facility for no or very little cost with a minimum 5 year lease term.  In order to comply with Title 22 Licensing Requirements, the facility must meet the following criteria through its existing structure and/or potential renovations:

1. Wheelchair accessible, preferably on the ground level;

2. Minimum of 2 offices;

3. Large classroom areas;

4. Storage space;

5. Minimum of four toilets (or adequate plumbing to install);

6. Kitchen (or ability to install);

7. Adequate parking (spots and street) and located near a bus stop;

8. Outdoor space or access to outdoor space (i.e. nearby park)

9. Basic fire alarm system (sirens and signs) or ability to install.

APAC proposes to create a site-based program in the Santa Clarita Valley serving moderate to low-functioning individuals with an approximate 1:6 staffing ratio.  This will be a new program separate from the existing community-based program, and will be able to operate without financial subsidies from the agency’s existing budget.  Classes, training and other activities will take place at the site, but some community activities will be incorporated into the design.  Once up and running, most program expenses will be supported by Regional Center reimbursement for client services.  However, start-up costs and some ongoing expenses (i.e. rent) will be reliant on outside sources of revenue and community support.

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