For parents of autistic adults with aggression, there are few mental health care options available
While he became aggressive at an early age, a strong support system and daily routine helped Jacob Malec keep his frustrations under control. And then he turned 18.
"All of a sudden he turned 18 and something clicked in his brain. So this has been going on since August and he's having sometimes two, three, four meltdowns a day," said Jodi Malec, Jacob's mom.
Jacob is non-verbal and has autism. It was age 4 when he began to show aggressive tendencies, but his family found ways to control and divert outbursts. But since becoming an adult, those outbursts have turned physical.
His parents have videos and photos of Jacob where his hand is bloody from him biting it or holes in the drywall where he's slammed his head against. Every time his dad or caregivers try to stop Jacob from the outbursts, he goes into attack mode.
"I just try and keep him away from the walls and the windows so he's not injuring himself. That frustrates him more. He lashes out more, hitting me, smacking me, grabbing my wrist, pinching me trying to bite me," said Keith, Jacob's dad.
Keith will hold his son on the floor until the medication kicks in. However, since August, the Malecs have needed to rely on first responders for help.
"We literally have tried everything. The only reason that we take him in to the hospital and call 911 is because at some point we're just like 'okay, we can't handle him anymore,'" said Jodi.
Unfortunately, the Malecs believe not even those institutions are capable of taking care of Jacob or his needs. It would take an inpatient facility to help Jacob - the kind that just isn't available in Michigan. They say the state has nothing available for adults like Jacob who suffer from aggressive episodes.
"We were on a Ferris wheel, right? And there isn't anywhere to go from here. The system - this has been going on too long," Keith said. "With all the adults and children with autism now, it has to change. We can rattle off 20 names of other families that are in the same boat right now."
What the family does have is a friend in the State Senate. Pete Lucido, who represents families like the Malecs and has been fighting for more access to mental health facilities. Unfortunately, since the state gutted funding for mental health care there hasn't been any new investment. Of the state's $26.5 billion budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, by the time the money is dispersed for mental health, there isn't enough to go around.
Instead, parents are placed on a waitlist for a facility that doesn't exist. The only solution for families like the Malecs' now is the perfect combination of medication to keep their son under control.
"It's destroying us. It's destroying us physically and emotionally right? We need help. At this day in age there needs to be facilities that are available to do this," said Keith.