HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – For nearly four decades, men and women have received care at Hudson’s Angelus group home. But, recently a state report called for its closure, citing the need for sweeping changes. It is news that leaves parents crushed.
For Katherine and Alfredo Giangreco, parenthood is the most precious gift they’ve ever received. Loving their children, they said, is what life is all about.
In fact, for these two Bradenton pediatricians, making sure their kids are thriving, happy and healthy is the number one priority in life, especially when it comes to their son, Marcello.
Loving and gentle, 32-year-old Marcello will break into a smile, but will often shy away from eye contact. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk; he can’t verbalize his thoughts and feelings. Marcello can’t talk or walk. He was born with a severe chromosome disorder and is bound to a wheelchair. He is tiny with a frail frame. His mother, Katherine, sits close to him, holding his hand. She is devastated at the news that his beloved group home, the Angelus, could be closing.
Marcello has been at the Hudson facility for the past 17 years. For him, it’s home. And, the people who live there are family.
“I mean, it would be like having a death in the family for us,” Katherine explained.
She’s desperately worried about her son’s future, knowing the comprehensive care he has received at this facility could be compromised somewhere else.
“We have peace of mind because we know he’s safe and happy here,” Katherine told News Channel 8. “For him, I know he would be separated.”
The popular group home is nestled in a quiet, wooded area of Pasco County. It feels like a summer camp or college campus. The sweeping 17-acre location has total privacy and offers 24-hour comprehensive care. Parents love the family atmosphere, and residents love the interaction with both staff and long-time patients.
“We would be devastated. He wouldn’t be able to tell you that, you know he couldn’t say to you. He couldn’t tell you how much she would miss Nick and Tom and all of his buddies. We know that because of his face and the way he reacts,” Katherine said about her son.
“We aren’t parents, but we’re the closest thing to it,” Angelus CEO Joseph Neri said. “I’ve known some of these residents for 35 years. We’d be devastated if they were gone. This is their home.”
Report cites need for change at Pasco facility
The Agency for Health Care Administration recently came out with a report, citing the need for various changes at the Pasco County campus.
“The Angelus is a presumed institution because it isolates people from the community. Because it’s gated, the homes on its property are too close together, and because the day center is on the same property,” the state report says.
The CEO of Angelus refuted portions of the report. “We have a gate here, not to keep residents in, but to keep other people out,” Neri said. “They say that we feel more like an institution, instead of a group home. I know the parents don’t feel that way; we have so many loving families and residents.”
Neri and many others are concerned about the displacement of dozens of residents. Marcello’s mother has a message for Governor Rick Scott. “Come to the Angelus. Just think about if your family had a very fragile, handicapped individual. What would you like for them to have?” she said.
Other Tampa Bay area group homes would also be affected. The deadline for public comment to the state is Sept. 25. Go here for more information and to find out how to make public comment.
8 On Your Side asked the state tough questions. Officials provided the following response:
“There is no interruption in services. AHCA is committed to working closely with all facilities as the state works to implement the federally mandated statewide transition plan by the federally set March 2019 deadline. We are not seeking to transition recipients including those at Angelus from any setting that has been identified as non-compliant with, or presumptively institutional pursuant to the federal HCB settings rule at this time. We will continue to work with Angelus throughout this process.”
Neri said state leaders have been in contact with his office, trying to work on a compromise. They have indicated they are amenable to visiting the Pasco property.
For Katherine and Alfredo, they just want Marcello to be safe. “This is his home. This is where he’s happy,” Katherine said.