Pasco mom pleads for DeSantis to ease group home restrictions amid pandemic


PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Paula Cohen is pleading with Governor Ron DeSantis to revisit his order on group homes.

Cohen says currently group homes are classified in the same manner as nursing homes. Her son, 32-year old Gregory Cohen, has autism and lives at a home in Tarpon Springs. She says he’s essentially been a prisoner at that home for more than two months.

Gregory is mostly non-verbal, but Paula knows he’s upset at the situation.

“My son got mad at us two weeks ago, he was thinking that we were taking him home and I said, ‘Gregory, we can’t take you out yet, you know?’ said Cohen, “He finished his lunch and looked at us with like, utter disgust and walked into his bedroom and wouldn’t come out again.”

Cohen wonders, why the state is using a blanket classification, rather than let facilities make decisions on a local level.

“A 32-year-old in good health is not the same as a 90-year-old in a nursing home,” said Cohen. “And they shouldn’t be treated the same way.”

Paula and her husband Barry Cohen, founded the P.A.C.K. camp 23 years ago.

P.A.C.K. stands for Pasco Association for Challenged Kids. Every year they host the camp for children with different disabilities, hoping to help families out. This year, COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of the camp, and the Cohens find themselves needing help themselves.

Paula says she is hopeful the Governor will respond to her plea.

“Again, I’m just begging the Governor, relax the restrictions for the group home people. Everyone in my son’s house has been tested. No one is showing symptoms,” said Cohen. “And I really think it should be up to the group home and the person’s family. “


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