Tonight a listener forwarded to me a letter written by a mother in Selkirk to her local Assemblyman pleading for help with her disabled son. I read the letter and felt so much empathy for what this woman has endured and wanted so much to both help and just give her a hug. After reading the letter I wrote back to the listener who reached out to me and said, "This story is heart breaking but I am not sure what I can do to help. Perhaps I can write about it and try to get the word out if she thinks that might help". Her answer was a resounding YES and Thank you.

Let me share with you letter that local Mom Gina Huntsman crafted and sent to her local Assemblyman. I know it may seem like a whole lot of words to read but if this woman can endure what she is going through , the least we can ALL do is hear her when in some ways that is all she wants someone to do, hear her.

Dear Mr. Lopez,

Hello, my name is Gina Huntsman and I am writing to you today for your help and guidance. Sixteen years ago I was blessed with a beautiful son. His name is Dominic. Dominic is Autistic among other disabilities he has, he is dually diagnosed. About a year ago things became extremely difficult for him and the decision was made that for his safety and well being he needed to go into residential schooling and treatment despite all of my efforts to keep him at home. I realized that he was truly in danger and that the situation with him was more than I could manage alone.

Unfortunately, the placement was not the correct fit for his needs and in Feb of 2016 after multiple run a ways from this facility he had run once again, but this time bare foot and in the snow in the Adirondack Mountains. After 11 hours in the cold elements he was found. State police and the DEC were diligent in their efforts with manpower, tracking dogs, and the helicopter. He was hypothermic and had third degree frost bite on both feet. He was taken by the state police to the local hospital and treated for frostbite. The police then took him to Plattsburgh CVPH hospital for evaluation where he currently still remains.

Dominic Notaro
Dominic Notaro

He has been on the adolescent mental health floor now for eighty two days. No fresh air. No sunshine. Inside for eighty two days and counting. The reason, there is no place to discharge him to. We are working hard to find programming for him. We have involved CCF ( Council for children and families hard to place unit) and we have been turned away from over half of the schools in NY that we have sent his packets to. The days continue to pass and we are not making much progress. In the meantime my husbands insurance has stopped covering Dominic's stay at CVPH 45 days ago. As did his state waivered Medicaid. The bill is currently 92,000 and I am expected to pay it. Everyday he is there waiting for placement its another $2000.00. Mr. Lopez I simply do not have that. I'm not sure I know anyone who can pay for healthcare out of pocket.

I sit in on weekly conference calls with opwdd, omh, CCF, CVPH, attorneys from mental hygiene legal services, attorneys for the school district as well as attorneys from the hospital he remains sitting in, and it is clear to me although we are keeping him safe by not returning him to the wrong placement he continued to run from but we are violating his rights at the same time. He is in a hospital healed from his frostbite and stable. He is there waiting for a proper placement and I am being billed for it. He is 3 hours away from his family myself included. I travel every weekend without fail to see him. He has not seen two of his siblings in 3 months as they are too young and the hospital will not allow anyone under 12 on the unit. None of this should be happening. I feel as a mom so many things when I look at the big picture.

One of the biggest issues I struggle with is this should never ever happen to a family. It is hard enough finding out that your child is disabled. It is also hard to face the reality of no longer being able to manage your child alone after doing it for almost 16 years. These are decisions no parent ever wants to have to make. Both of those situations however are unavoidable. Be it gods will or whatever it is you believe in, it is what I was given. I am grateful of course and blessed to have him as a son, but the situation we stand in now is one hundred percent unavoidable. It is unacceptable. Something has to be done.

I am taking what's happening to my family and my son to as many people that I can. I will write many letters, make many calls, even take it public if need be until someone hears me. I am asking you to please hear my story and help us to change this system so other families do not go through what we are going through. I appreciate you taking the time to read my letter. Thank you.


Gina Huntsman

I really don't know what can be done about this situation, I am sure this is just one of many stories just like it throughout the state but I know that for me as a taxpayer this is the sort of thing that I want to help with. I want Assemblyman Lopez and any other politician who reads this letter to know that yes, I can deal with a couple less anti - smoking ads and a few less art endowments if it means this woman and her family can find some peace.

There is a Go Fund Me page set up for the family with the hash-tag "domsangels". If you would like to help the family with a donation you can do that easily by clicking this button.


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