Pat and Tony Munoz
Pat Munoz is a quiet force of nature when it comes to providing the best opportunities for her 25-year-old son, Tony. They live in El Paso, and Tony is diagnosed with moderate mental retardation and a psychotic disorder. Pat had family support early on, but that changed as Tony’s behavior became more difficult to manage. The family environment was too stimulating for Tony, which resulted in acts of aggression. This behavior, coupled with a lack of understanding, alienated many people — but most importantly, Pat’s family. “The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with was to educate my family,” she said.
Pat revealed that at times she was scared that Tony would hurt her. She felt she had no other choice but to institutionalize Tony for one week at the El Paso State Center. It was a very negative experience for both since he came home with unexplained bruises and minor injuries.
Tony was on the waiting list for nine years before receiving Texas Home Living (TxHmL) services. While on the waiting list, respite and habilitation services were provided through the El Paso MHMR. Shortly after his enrollment in the TxHmL waiver, Tony was offered and accepted services through the Home and Community-Based Services (HCS) waiver.
In analyzing services, Pat said that “There are major problems with HCS, and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.” She explained that she had to give up her job due to inconsistent staff coverage from the providers. She became Tony’s foster parent after her provider suggested this, but she took a decrease in pay and lost her medical and dental benefits.
According to Pat, “One of the biggest challenges I face is to get staff to think outside the box. Staff should be taking Tony into the community and teaching him how to navigate in this world. He’ll never be able to work if he can’t do this, and there needs to be consistent services if it is to be beneficial.”
Pat also expressed concern about the day habilitation (day hab) component of HCS. “This is a major place where HCS is lacking. We try to fit the individual to the program vs. fitting the program to the individual. Everyone is different. My son does not do well in a day hab environment. This is something we need to work on with the HCS program.”
When asked to identify the three top services Tony still needs that he is not getting, Pat said, “Employment, Employment, Employment.” She added that “Transportation is also a big problem as the HCS program does not cover the cost of this service.”
Regarding options for Tony’s future, Pat said, “We are exploring the possibility of opening up our own business, a shredding paper business.” She wants Tony to be employed and part of his community, even if she has to be the one to create the opportunities for him.
Pat noted that Tony volunteered at a nursery while he was in high school but due to not having HCS services when he graduated, he lost his job. She believes that if he had the transition services at that time (HCS), he could have maintained employment. She feels this was a missed opportunity for him.