Disabled Man’s Ordeal Leads To Bus Matron’s Arrest
Family Furious After Man With Cerebral Palsy Was Left Alone In Frigid Brooklyn Yard For 19 Hours
NEW YORK (CBS) – He could have frozen to death.
On Thursday night police charged a 51-year-old woman for allegedly leaving a mentally and physically challenged man — overnight — on a bus for 19 hours.
Ed Rivera, who has cerebral palsy and the mental capacity of a 2-year-old, survived alone, trapped in a parking lot Wednesday night, as the wind chill hovered near zero.
Rivera’s New York City family was in disbelief Thursday night following a day of uncertainty.
Rivera didn’t arrive home Wednesday night. His special needs bus, ironically named Outstanding Transport, should have dropped him in East Harlem, but investigators found him almost a day later — miles away in a Brooklyn bus yard. Sources tell CBS 2 HD Rivera was strapped in his seat directly behind the driver’s seat. How the driver missed him is not known.
However, late Thursday sources told CBS 2 HD police were talking to the bus matron Linda Hockaday, the assistant to the bus driver. The source said Hockaday admitted to knowing that Rivera was still on the bus when it was locked up on one of the coldest nights of the year. Her rationale for leaving? She apparently didn’t want to be late for church. [Emphasis mine]
I love the reference in the subtitle to the family being furious. Gee, you think? As appalling as this story is, I’m not that surprised. In my experience with folks with disabilities, an overwhelming number of the drivers who provide transportation services for them are the type of people you and I wouldn’t hire to deliver pizzas.
True story: When I was a counselor at a facility for adults with mental illness, most them spent their weekdays at a program called the Clubhouse, where they could participate in recreation and social activities and receive life skills training, medical, and case management services. The transport service that we used to get them to and from the clubhouse tended to have a high turnover rate; I’ll explain my theory why below. One day the new driver was a gap-toothed trailer tart whom I will call “Eunice.” Eunice seemed alright (in that her parents’ twigs on the family tree were probably not on the same branch), and she appeared competent enough to get the clients from Point A to Point B and back again. However, one day I overheard her distinct speech (a sort of patois of redneck and hip-hop lingo) on the front porch, talking to one of the clients. No big deal, except Eunice was sharing about a confrontation she had with a neighbor who called her a slut. Eunice concluded this charming anecdote with this assertion of her intellect and entitlement to respect (I’m not making this up): “I aint no slut. The only men I evuh slept with was my babies’ daddies and they was only four of them.” At this point I stepped onto the porch and politely asked to speak to Eunice in the office, where I gently reminded her that we really shouldn’t share too much personal information with the clients. She looked perplexed by this, but said she would comply.
Of course, this was not to be the last time Eunice was inappropriate. One morning I heard snoring in the living room outside of my office. I walked out and there was Eunice, 20 minutes early, sleeping on one of the couches. I gently woke her and suggested that if she needed sleep, she could do it in her van while waiting for the clients. Once again, Eunice complied even though she didn’t really seem to understand what the big deal was.
Finally, Eunice got fired for taking one of the clients on a day-long joy ride instead of taking her to the clubhouse. Really.
Another true story: A couple of years later I was running my own group home. One of my staff paged me and informed that one of our clients, a 4’11” tall, overweight 52-year old woman with Down Syndrome, had been injured getting on the transport van to go to her day placement. How did it happen? The driver hadn’t lowered the retractable steps far enough for her. Instead of asking the client to wait and adjusting the steps, the driver attempted to push the client up onto the steps. Surely, a great mind at work.
You may be wondering why these transportation provider services keep hiring such troglodytes. Here’s why: because they can’t afford anyone better. They don’t pay squat. With all due respect to my conservative and libertarian friends and readers, government agencies are almost the only entities providing these services that pay a living wage to the direct-care workers. The result is that clients who receive services from government employees are mostly cared for by motivated people, selected from a pool of qualified applicants, who actually want to be there. Private service providers end up with two types of employees – the type who stay until something better comes along and the type who can’t find anything else because they are otherwise unemployable. Ultimately, who suffers for this? You do the math.