Legislative breakfast sparks inspirational story from Devereux parent
In March, Devereux Massachusetts / Rhode Island (MA/RI) held its seventh annual “Legislator’s Breakfast” event at its Rutland, Mass., campus.
During the event, more than 50 attendees learned about the center’s various programs and services geared to unlock and nurture human potential for people living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences. Participants included local legislators and township administrators, parents, current and former students, and Devereux MA/RI Advisory Board members.
Attendees also had an opportunity to hear directly from Devereux parents and students, as they shared their experiences with Devereux MA / RI. In particular, one Devereux parent, Erica Sarro, presented a moving and inspirational speech. Below is a summary of Erica’s story about her son, Jon, and their journey to Devereux.
I want to thank Devereux for the chance to speak about our family’s experience. To understand my son's success, I thought I would start by sharing a bit about my son’s past, and his road to Devereux. My son Jonathan, or Jon, is my oldest of four children, growing up as most quirky innocent children do, wearing Buzz Light-Year outfits and watching The Lion King on repeat for most of his young years. Jon was the kid who wore three-piece suits to school, thinking he looked like a businessman. He was the jokester, the caring one and the one who would snuggle on my lap every chance he could. Jon was also one of the most hyperactive and anxious children I had ever met. His first hospitalization was when he was only eight-years-old. I will never forget it. He said he wanted to die – heartbreaking.
Jon spent the next several years overcoming one obstacle after another. School was a challenge – he was showing delays in all academic and self-regulation areas. Bullying became a huge problem – Jon became a victim of physical assault three to four times a week. By the time Jon was finishing middle school, he started to show classic signs of anxiety, and a mood disorder, cycling frequently and requiring a hospital level of care at least three to four times a year.
When Jon turned 14-years-old, he decided he was not going to be a victim any longer. He was now a six-foot-tall young man who was volatile, angry, aggressive and unpredictable. My husband, myself and my other three children were scared to death. At this point, hospitals were becoming a monthly occurrence. Because we had private insurance, I could not access levels of care that were preventive or partial hospitalizations. There was nothing I could do. Then, I made a decision, one that thousands of families in Massachusetts make in order to save their children. I went to the juvenile court with Jon and stated that I could not keep him in my home safely, and that Department of Children and Families, or the courts, had to help me find him a place where he could be safe. You can’t imagine how devastating this is.
Luckily, I was appointed a wonderful team of individuals who saw how much help Jon needed. We worked collaboratively to get Jon into a residential center. His first residential placement was close to home, but was co-ed and had little security or funding to provide quality care. He did not do well with the unstructured group home life. That same year, he was hospitalized 16 times, with the last time being the most serious, where the police found him standing in his underwear, on the Amtrak train tracks, arms cut and covered in blood begging to die. Our team hoped Devereux would be an option.
Devereux met with Jon and me while he was still in the hospital. We were excited to hear of Devereux's commitment to family involvement. We made the leap of faith, and it was the best decision we ever made. Jon enrolled in Devereux in August 2016. Within the first month, we had intake meetings, medication management meetings and weekly calls, along with daily emails on Jon’s progress and setbacks. His Devereux team provided healing for his past traumas and new coping strategies. He started to go to school, thrived off of routine, made new friends and even became a pretty good soccer player!
Devereux was the best program I could have ever imagined. My opinion was listened to, the medication doctor was always available for discussions, the staff consisted of the most dedicated employees I have ever encountered. Jon formed bonds with many of the staff, learned a lot about his Jamaican culture and became a confident Rastafarian young man.
By August 2017, Jon did not have one hospitalization or an elopement and, for the first time in over 16 years, I had my first night’s sleep. Devereux is family centered. I never felt left out, I never felt shamed or questioned with my parenting choices. And Jon never felt as if he was punished, or bad for needing this level of care.
Jon was discharged from Devereux and he is stable and emotionally-centered. He has a new sense of self-esteem and the skills to recognize triggers and break the cycle of mental illness. Devereux taught Jon how to survive, how to advocate for himself and how to find fun in life. He loves to travel and is a soccer star! Jon gained skills in self-care, time management and, for the first time, is interested in his future. What a gift. Jon has returned to me as a strong, confident and caring young man, who is attending school, working part time though a vocational center, reconnecting with childhood friends and making plans for his future.
Thank you, Devereux, for saving my son’s life – and for saving my family. We were broken when Jon entered Devereux, and we are now healthy and whole again. Thank you, Devereux, for continuing to help countless children and young adults who look terrible on an intake packet, but are amazingly gifted in person. Thank you, Devereux, for continuing your mission and providing the quality care that you do. From your front desk receptionists, to your teachers, your nursing department, and your direct care staff – they are the most loving, caring, competent people in the industry, and you have my eternal respect and support for continued success.
Thank you, Erica, for sharing this important story!