Will had a roommate, another Ray Graham “client” with mild developmental disabilities. I’ll call him “Mike”. Mike was 68 years old to Will’s 44. Mike’s was a sad story, a man who did quite well as long as he was living at home with his family, but after the death of his parents – well, things rapidly went downhill. A well-meaning friend intervened and got him into the Ray Graham Association. The hope was they would help him learn necessary life skills to live as independently as possible.
Eventually, another friend helped Mike purchase a small condominium, assisted by donations from the community and a government purchase incentive for people with disabilities. Will moved in to help with costs – and to help pick up the slack, because Ray Graham did not provide anywhere near the support or training Mike required. Mike couldn’t manage his medications, couldn’t cook, couldn’t clean his condo, couldn’t manage simple bills. Since both Will and Mike were in the “intermittent support program”, a program that Ray Graham found less than lucrative in terms of reimbursement from the state, minimal resources were committed. It offered a large degree of independence and choice, which appealed to both Mike and Will, but in exchange for this, provided extremely poor “support”. The direct support provider was supposed to show up regularly and offer a certain number of hours per week. That was the theory. This was documented (for the purposes of reimbursement by the state) on monthly service log sheets, or as Will called them, “Papers of Lies”.
I lived with Mike and Will for over three months when Will completed two rounds of biochemotherapy and needed intense medical and emotional support. I saw what went on first hand. Will’s sister was also present for weeks at a time, and will verify that the Ray Graham employee responsible for Mike’s support did not provide the hours of care that were signed off on those “Papers of Lies”. (when Will was still with Ray Graham, he’d sometimes crumple them up – garbage, in his view – before initialing them, as he was required to do). Sometimes Mike ran out of his medications. Sometimes he ran out of food. Sometimes the condo was uncleaned – for Will, who had previously done all the cooking and cleaning for both of them, was no longer physically able to do so. All of these issues were supposed to be dealt with properly by Ray Graham – according to their Papers of Lies – er, the monthly summary sheets. I arranged for Mike to have a free 911 cell phone, a free emergency alert beeper, and finally, a twice a week cleaning service. Ray Graham just kept collecting the government checks.
One day, before Will was completely disabled by his illness but long after he had gotten very ill, the direct support provider demanded he cook spaghetti for Mike, who had recently injured his arm. For Will, this was the last straw; he long knew he was being exploited but had other battles to fight. But now he had few fighting resources left. He called me, shouting in anger and frustration. “Don’t they understand? I have cancer. Mike’s arm will heal, it will get better. This cancer WILL NOT!” And for the first time since his diagnosis, he broke down completely.
Will was useful to Ray Graham in many ways; he was a source of income as well as an unpaid assistant to Mike, filling in the many gaps left by their inadequate program. Sadly, the usefulness was not reciprocal.