RONAN – Adults with severe autism don’t have a lot of choices for long-term care. Many group homes can’t accommodate their needs, and that leaves families with tough choices.
Meet a Ronan couple who is doing something about it for the love of their son and the other families who need specialized care for their adult children with autism.
The back of Rich Janssen’s truck tells the story of a father’s love. He’s had the same license plate for 20 years that says “jake’s dad”.
Jake is 23 years old and was diagnosed with severe autism when he was just a toddler, and he is not alone.
“When Jake was diagnosed, it was one in 500 children would be diagnosed with autism, and now it’s one in 45, you know,” Rich said. “So the need’s there, and the kids are becoming adults and the places for those adults to go is very very small.”
As Jake grew older, his medical needs increased. The Janssens knew as they got older, they’d need to find a group home setting for their son. No one would take on the challenge Jake presented.
They decided to find a solution themselves, one that could help not only Jake, but other families in a similar situation.
“We just had so many people come forward and say ‘we’re in the same exact boat as you,” Jake’s mom, Julie, said. “We tried to get our child into a group home. We’ve tried to do these things, but we keep facing walls and being told ‘no’ and we agree, we need to do something about this situation. So out of that and out of our being told that our local group home would not accept Jake, Proactive Living Facility was born.”
On this 11.5-acre plot in Ronan, in the shadow of the Mission Mountains, is the future site of Proactive Living Facility focusing on care for autistic adults.
It’s a concept that’s gaining momentum. There’s already been a $150,000 anonymous donation from the Montana Community Foundation, and a $25,000 grant from the Gianforte family foundation. There is hope that as more money comes in, they’ll be able to break ground on a facility to help adults with autism.
“The facility will be a first of its kind where it’s specific to adults with severe autism,” Jake said. “That’s our hope, and we’re going to get there sooner the better. With a lot of prayers, we’ll get there next spring.”
It is about providing a future, a home and a sense of community. Something everyone deserves.
“I want to know that when I am gone, he is cared for and he’s happy and he’s in a place where he belongs,” Julie said. “So I think that every parent deserves to have the right to know that when they’re gone, their child will be taken care of.”
Story by Jill Valley, MTN News