"It's like I'm in the dark": Families of TDC residents want better communication

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 10:26 PM EDT
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By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News

May 5, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Three coronavirus-related deaths are now connected to the Tallahassee Developmental Center, which last month was deemed the "epicenter" of Leon County's COVID-19 outbreak by the president of a local hospital.

Two residents and a staff member have died, said chief operating officer Kim Faustin. Frustrated families affected by the outbreak described it as "gut-wrenching."

"You're putting his life in the hands of someone else and that's very stressful," said Sandra Patterson, whose son, Davey, is a resident at TDC.

Patterson said she has not seen him in months because he has been in quarantine at the Appleyard location since testing positive for COVID-19.

"It's gut-wrenching. It pulls your heart. You can't be the big momma bear that you want to be protecting your child," she told WCTV's Katie Kaplan.

An added issue that Patterson said is making the situation harder to endure is "poor communication" from administrators. She said she has not received any correspondence from administrators at the facility since an initial email that notified families the facility would not be allowing visitors due to the pandemic.

"I'm just asking that we be informed as parents, as guardians, with our loved ones," she said. "And I don't think we're asking too much."

It is a complaint that echos Connie Parker's concerns. Her brother, 62-year-old Sandy Joe Cochran, lives at the facility. The 62-year-old has been hospitalized with the virus since April 3.

"I haven't heard anything from TDC since my brother has been hospitalized," she said Tuesday afternoon.

Both Parker and Patterson said they have made numerous calls to the facility and administrative staff.

Faustin released the following a statement via email to WCTV late Tuesday night:

"We have attempted to communicate with all families and guardians, often multiple times. We have been unable to reach three families. Some of our residents have been able to communicate with their families via Facetime and telephone calls; we’ve sent photos to some. We understand how difficult it is for families who are unable to visit their loved ones and are making every effort to stay in touch with them. We are very appreciative for the families who have provided staff with special meals and gifts. Their kindness is important to our staff who continue to diligently care for our residents during this challenging time."

In the same correspondence, Faustin said 12 residents have been hospitalized overall. Two of them have died and one remains in critical condition. Three have recovered and have been transferred to temporary housing at Pyramid Studios.

Pyramid is where Cochran is expected to go once he is released. However, Parker said she is worried about if the facility is outfitted to handle his special needs, which could include trying to leave the property.

"It's like I'm in the dark and I'm his guardian and nobody's telling me anything," she said.

Founder of Pyramid Studios Marilyn Yon deferred comment to Faustin Tuesday night. The Tallahassee facility, located roughly three miles from TDC, generally serves as an arts-focused day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Yon previously stated it would be reconfigured to house some TDC residents, but declined to provide photographs of what the changes were.

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