Errol, Harry and the Future
Scottdale, Georgia (Senate District 42)
When you walk into his space and extend your hand, Errol Zinkand will politely take off his baseball cap to greet you, but take advantage of the opportunity to rub his head for a second before putting his hat back on. He might choose to give you a high five rather than to shake.
Errol is an entrepreneur. Thanks to his compassionate, forward-thinking family, this 30-year-old man who is on the autism spectrum, works a few hours per week with his job coach, Jon, shredding paper from local offices.
Jon helps keep Errol focused and on task as he works to shred the paper for three to four hours at a time. “I can’t get Errol to do what Jon can get done,” says his father, Ken, about the importance of the job coach in his son’s life. The coach has been trained to work with people who may need modifications to be successful in their jobs. Many parents want to be helpful but do not have the training that the supported employment coaches do. Plus, at that age, who wants their parents telling them what to do? (Story continues below after slideshow.)
After Errol finishes shredding, Jon takes Errol to Your DeKalb Farmers Market to recycle the detritus in large, blue plastic bags. Because he goes to the farmers market so often, it’s one of Errol’s favorite places. He tracks whether or not the fountain at the entrance is working or not. Usually not.
Errol’s workload is as full as he and his family would like it to be. He makes enough money to pay for his supplies and support team, but after that, he pretty much breaks even. “I want him to have a full life in many other ways,” says Errol’s dad. “It’s great that he can work. He could work several days a week if we let him, but he needs to get out and do other things than just sit in the shed.”
Errol has a COMP Medicaid waiver, which provides funding so he can receive support services in his home and in the community. Errol started receiving Medicaid waiver funds when he was 20 years old and still in high school. His mom, Carol, was part of a community group for parents where a speaker came to explain waiver options.
Therapeutic horseback riding, swimming at the YMCA and other activities are made possible because of the support Errol receives with funds from his Medicaid waiver. The waiver pays for someone to drive him to where he needs to go, someone who will facilitate his participation in an activity and someone to ensure that he stays safe and does not wander off. Errol’s parents work. Without a waiver, one of his parents would need to stay home because Errol needs constant supervision. Still, healthcare is a big obstacle for Errol and many who are living on Medicaid. There is only one local dentist that takes Medicaid. The wait for an appointment is often more than nine months long.
Transitioning from living with parents to living independently in the community is daunting for adults with developmental disabilities. For most, housing solutions are hard to come by. There is a shortage of living options and affordable housing for individuals living with a developmental disability. On the horizon for Errol’s future, his family bought a house two blocks away from his dad’s place. They are currently renovating it so Errol and another person with a developmental disability can live there together with an assistant or caregiver.
Just like they did with his transition out of high school, Errol’s parents are being extremely organized and thoughtful about what the next phase of life could hold. They’re thinking about what will happen if they die before Errol. It’s important to note that Errol is experiencing a best case scenario. Elements such as capacity, knowledge of systems and resources greatly influence his parents’ ability to set things like this up for him. Errol is lucky to have parents that are educated about the resources available in the community and are dedicated to finding opportunities that enrich his life. They have found creative solutions.
Writer: Shannon Turner, Photographer: Lynsey Weatherspoon