Michael DeRyan, an autistic man who’s worn down the inside soles of his tennis shoes by rocking back and forth like a pendulum, was released Wednesday from Eastern State Hospital.
But DeRyan, 36, didn’t go far. He moved only two miles, to Lakeland Village, a home for the developmentally disabled.
DeRyan has lived at the mental hospital for 16 months. His mother and siblings have been fighting for his release, arguing he doesn’t belong at Eastern.
Finally, after two psychologists and autism experts reviewed his living situation, state officials agreed to provide him a new home. DeRyan will stay at Lakeland until an appropriate place can be found for him in the community, such as a group home with 24-hour support.
“I’m happy for him,” said C. Jan Gregg, Eastern’s superintendent. “I think this will be better for him. This is a psychiatric hospital. If his primary diagnosis is autism, he really needs to be in a place where those needs can be met.”
For months, many have said Eastern is no place for a man with a developmental disability.
The two reviewing psychologists said DeRyan needs a well-structured program with predictable activities and lots of individual attention in a quiet, simple environment.
Autism is a severe developmental disorder that affects about one child in 1,000.
People with autism sometimes stare into space for hours, recoil from touch and show no interest in people, even family members. They rock back and forth and engage in repetitive behaviors with no clear purpose.
The two psychologists said they were concerned that DeRyan’s abilities had slipped at Eastern, which doesn’t have a program for autism. He needs intense one-to-one work.
“Typical hospital settings are extremely difficult for persons with autism,” Dr. Marvin Bruno wrote.
Judy DeRyan, 65, said she’s hopeful that Lakeland will meet her son’s needs - for the time being. DeRyan will be at Lakeland temporarily, as health workers cobble together a living situation for him in the community.
“It’s a good stepping stone,” Judy DeRyan said. “It’s an interim, to get him used to doing things, things he hasn’t done for years.”
At one time, Michael DeRyan composed songs on the piano, won art awards and swam like a water bug.
He was sent to Eastern because he was considered dangerous after lashing out in an adult family home. He was only supposed to be there a short time, while social workers found a more appropriate placement.
The fight to get DeRyan out of Eastern has been hampered by the fact that he hasn’t been able to meet discharge requirements. And the state Division of Developmental Disabilities hasn’t had the money to place DeRyan in the community.
DeRyan’s care at Eastern cost at least $350 a day, for a total bill of more than $150,000. That money comes out of the state’s Mental Health Division under the Department of Social and Health Services.
DeRyan’s slot at Lakeland, which costs about $320 a day, already is in the budget. He’ll be one of 287 patients there, living in a cottage in an unlocked environment.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities, which aims to house disabled people in the least restrictive places possible, is trying to get money to place DeRyan in the community.
That 24-hour care would cost about $250 a day.
DeRyan is one of about 250 regional division clients ready for new living situations. But the department doesn’t have the money to move them, said Laurie Zapf, the division’s regional administrator.
“It’s hard to get serious about the community situation when we don’t have the money,” he said.
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