Coronavirus News: Parents urge New York to allow special need visitation at group homes

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are more than 7,000 people with developmental disabilities living in small group homes in New York and their families feel like they've been forgotten about during the pandemic.

On Monday, a group of families urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to include the group homes in one of the phases of his reopening plan.

As of now, they've been largely grouped with nursing home facilities, despite many of the people not being considered high risk.

Assembly member Melissa Miller held a virtual press conference on Monday, highlighting concerns of the special needs community.

Last week, 7 On Your Side first reported on the concerns of group homes being left out of the reopening process. Now family members are urging the state to consider a visitation plan for families.

"We are seeing regression and he is sitting with nothing to do," said Maryann Allen, whose son lives in a small group home.

It's a similar situation for the son of Steven Bronzi, who is autistic.

"They've been treated differently and it's morally and ethically wrong," Bronzi said.

Miller says it's not fair to keep families apart.

A group of lawmakers sent the governor a letter and a video message, pleading with him to take a closer look at the issue.

The state office in charge of group homes issued a statement that states it's "... working closely with the NYS Department of Health to establish a process to safely begin returning to regular activities, including a phased-in approach to the resumption of community-based programs and visitations."

However, parents are requesting a specific timeline.

"Develop a plan like they have for every other region and every other area of life in this state, with deadlines attached to it that are something other than 'soon' because that means nothing," Allen said.

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