Gary's Story: Parents of teen with special needs struggle to find help
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) —
Prom at TC Roberson High School has always been one of the best nights for Gary Chancey. Pictured with his date and good friend Miranda McCaan, his mother Amanda Chancey reflects. But a few minutes later, she wells up with tears.
Her 19-year-old son has many good days but recently he has been struggling. He's diagnosed as developmentally disabled but also takes medicine to control violent outbursts and anxiety.
Two weeks ago, his mom had to take him to Mission Hospital's Emergency Room after an outburst at school that continued at home. Amanda's other teenage son is also developmentally disabled, and she's struggling to find help.
"It's been a very hard and long struggle," Amanda said. "Because I spend countless hours researching and see trying to find them help, trying to do what other people are trained to do, and I am always told that I am the most qualified."
Chancey cried as she explained her frustration. She loves both her son's, but she's struggled to find help for Gary. She once placed him in an institution for help when she was living in South Carolina. But when she went to pick him up, she said her son was completely sedated. It was something that made her feel helpless in trying to find help for her son, who now is on a host of medications to control his outbursts. She said another experience at a group home for a short period of time also was not what she wants for her son. So, she brought him home.
In the latest episode, Amanda said her son lost control.
"He was attacking everybody and attempting to bite," Amanda recalled.
She and her longtime boyfriend took Gary to Mission Hospital's ER.
"Because I don't know of any other place to take him," Amanda said.
"We can't take him to the psychiatrist," said Ted Weld, Amanda's longtime boyfriend who has become like a father for Gary. "At that point, it's an emergency issue, and we have to take him to the ER."
The family wanted Gary admitted to Copestone, Mission's behavioral health, unit but the hospital denied the request according to Ted.
Mission would not comment on Gary's case.
"They say the ER is not a place for people that have mental issues or intellectual developmental delays," Amanda said.
Gary is an extreme case with secondary psychological and behavioral issues that include sexual aggression. His family believes the medicine's he's on is having unintended side effects.
"Where it's causing him to obsessively eat, so he's putting on a tremendous amount of weight," Ted said. "When we try to control his food, he wants to argue over that."
The couple has a host of doctors Gary sees, but right now they said none of the doctors have been able to assist in finding a caring in-patient facility where Gary could be observed for several weeks in hopes of getting his medication evaluated and perhaps adjusted.
"It's a vicious cycle we're struggling with," Ted said. "I love Gary with all my heart. I mean, he's like a son to me, and it pains me to watch him when he has these episodes. Because I'm the one that has to hold him down and restrain him."
Gary's friend Miranda McCaan is his peer tutor at TC Roberson. What that means is she enrolled in a class to help fellow teens who are developmentally disabled. She has become close with Gary.
"When you, like, walk in the room, he just screams, 'Hey Miranda!" McCaan said. "He's just really happy to see me. There's a very wide range of kids in the program, and Gary is just kind of up there towards the top. He's just very smart for someone with as many obstacles to overcome as he has."
McCaan heard about Gary's outburst at school. She said students had been coming up to her asking about it. She brushes off the whispers and said many students just don't understand what a special young man Gary is.
"He's a really good kid. He's just going through a rough patch right now," she said. "Everybody does, and he just needs people to be there for him."
His mother is desperate for help. She said Mission ER staff recommended a facility in Morganton. But when Amanda called, she found it would only look after him and not evaluate if his medicine should be adjusted.
"Wherever he is going to end up, we're going to be told the same thing. That this isn't the best place for him," Amanda said.
"No matter what state you're in. Whether you're Democrat or Republican," Ted Weld said, "mental health services are lacking everywhere I've ever been. We can't continue to ignore these people and continue to not fund necessary services that they need. There's not enough psychiatrists or doctors that know how to deal on both ends."
"I want very much for them to get what they are needing," Amanda said of her two sons. "And it's not just for my kids. This is for all people in this situation. No matter if it's a mental issues, alcohol or drug abuse addiction. All of them need to be looked at. Don't just keep pushing them from place to place, person to person. It's not helping them."
On News 13 at 11 p.m., take a closer look at Broughton Mental Hospital. It's the only hospital of its kind in the western part of the state. The hospital is seeing an increase of jail inmates transferred to the facility, and it's keeping other patients from having access to treatment.