Successful Day Treatment Program at Young Adult institute (YAI)
Stephen E. Freeman
only had to step outside YAI/National Institute for People with
Disabilities’ Manhattan Day Treatment Program on West 13th
Street and look downtown to see the devastation at the World Trade
Center. From the facility, less than a mile away, some staff and
clients witnessed the second plane crashing into a tower.
all around us was evacuating their buildings,” said Karen Abbe,
YAI’s senior supervisor at the program. “But as primary care givers,
we couldn’t just leave our clients. We had a job to do.”
Setting their own fears aside, YAI’s staff managed to assure more
than 220 clients, assuring them they were secure at the program.
staff displayed tremendous courage and compassion, putting the
needs of our clients above all,” said Gary Milchman, Manhattan
Day’s Coordinator. “They take care of other people, no matter
what the situation.”
Many clients, who were accustomed to the daily routine of the
program were quite aware of the crisis.
a tendency to overlook the reaction people with mental retardation
have to stress and trauma,” said Paul Smoller, Director of YAI’s
Day Services Programs. “In truth, so many clients were asking,
‘Who did this? Why did they do this?’ They wanted to know just
like everyone else.”
Anticipating that many of the clients would have to stay in the
program longer than usual, some staff went to a nearby grocery
store to ensure there was adequate food on hand to feed the clients.
of participants were calling in and we told them if we needed
to, we were prepared to keep their children overnight and stay
with them until we could be sure they could get home safely,”
Some staff walked clients across the city to reunite them with
their families. A few families were able to pick up their children.
However, there were several, who lived in Brooklyn, lower Manhattan
and a state-run group residence near the World Trade Center, who
had no way of getting home.
The staff and clients shared a spaghetti dinner in the dining
room. The novelty of being served dinner at a day program helped
distract from the horrible events of the day.
Later that evening, transportation was arranged for the remaining
clients to return home. “We were not going to abandon our clients”
Karen said. “We love them.”#
E. Freeman, C.S.W., is Associate Executive Director of YAI/National
Institute for People with Disabilities.
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