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United Cerebral Palsy's Decatur office will close Nov. 27, leaving families seeking other care options

Herald & Review - 11/22/2019

Nov. 22--DECATUR -- Families of those receiving services from United Cerebral Palsy Land of Lincoln in Decatur are looking for other options after the organization announced it will close Nov. 27.

"This abrupt announcement fills us with tremendous sadness for the individuals we serve," said Jenny Dawson, chief marketing officer, in a statement on social media. "We will work hard to connect individuals and their families with other local agencies to fill their needs."

UCP Land of Lincoln, which is based in Springfield and serves people with development disabilities, announced last month that it would be acquired by Sparc, also based in Springfield and serving the same clientele.

In a statement, UCP said it learned Monday that the Decatur location would not be part of the acquisition. But Sparc CEO Greg O'Connor said in phone interviews Tuesday and Wednesday that his organization has been trying to reach out to the Decatur office for days without success.

He said he had been receiving concerned calls and messages from parents. "I don't know when or who sent out a notice to employees saying our last day is Wednesday. I have nothing to do with UCP closing anything," O'Connor said.

"Last week we reached out to the Decatur folks and said we need to sit down and talk and figure out what we're going to do," he said. "I have not heard back from those people."

But Dawson said in a phone interview Thursday morning that it's Sparc that has been failing to communicate. According to Dawson, Sparc pulled out of the deal at the last minute and now her office is trying to inform its clients of other services and agencies in the community.

"It became evident early this week that they were not going to acquire our location," said Dawson. "I reached out multiple times and asked for answers and was met with silence."

In addition to clients with cerebral palsy, UCP worked with others who may have autism, a brain injury or developmental delays. Its offerings included after-school and summer programs, as well as an adult day program called Healthy Living. The Decatur office also offered medical advocacy transportation, which allowed people with disabilities a way to make it to doctor's appointments.

Megan Meyrick, a Decatur mother of two children with developmental disabilities, described the situation as "frustrating." If money is the issue behind the moves, Meyrick said she would be willing to pay a fee to keep the after-school and summer camp programs her children, 13-year-old Jamarius and 11-year-old Felicia, attend.

"The people in charge need to be communicating. I don't know what's going to come of it," said Meyrick.

Kelly Buzan expressed similar sentiments, saying parents weren't informed until Tuesday that programs will be cut next week. Her daughter Jillian, 23, participates in the UCP adult day program.

Another mother of two, Jamie McMillen, said it is very difficult to find qualified people to watch children with developmental disabilities. Her children, 13-year-old Danaysha and 10-year-old Davontay, have participated in UCP programs for five years.

"People just don't know how to interact with kids like this, generally speaking," said McMillen. "They don't understand they have meltdowns and difficulty processing things. I don't know what I'm going to do."

In addition to programs for people with disabilities, UCP Land of Lincoln has been the organizer of the widely attended Miller Lite Barstool Open for 18 years. The fundraiser, featuring miniature golf courses at bars and taverns throughout the community, involved more than 150 volunteers and 2,000 participants raising thousands of dollars each year. Much of the money went to pay for the organization's after-school program.

Youth Advocate Program will become the new organizer of that event under a new name, Miller Lite Open, according to the statement from UCP.

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Contact Garrett Karsten at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @GarrettKarsten

ONLINE

Visit herald-review.com to look back at the Barstool Open through the years in photos.

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