Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 24, 2013

Parents fight for autistic daughter

ELBERTA — Matt and Kelli Stapleton are deep into the fight of their lives, a fight they’re waging for their daughter.

Matt Stapleton, Frankfort-Elberta School District’s principal and athletic director, and his wife must battle insurance companies, bureaucracy, and other barriers to secure expensive care they believe is needed for their daughter Issy, 13, whose acute autism sometimes spirals into violent outbursts that twice resulted in her mother’s hospitalization.

They think they’ve found a treatment facility that could be the breakthrough they’ve long sought: the Great Lakes Center for Autism Training and Research near Kalamazoo. But one thing is missing.

Money. And a lot of it. Nearly $150,000 beyond what insurance and other sources kicked in.

Doctors at the Great Lakes Center said Issy could need as much as eight months of treatment, the Stapletons said. That’s seven days a week, 24 hours a day, at a cost of $765 each day. The center, the believe, could vastly decrease the girl’s aggressive, frightening behavior.

“Nobody has money in their budget for it,” Matt said. (Community Mental Health) said they couldn’t pay for it. The state has said they’re not paying for it. Insurance is not going to pay for it. But since things have gotten so bad, they decided to work together and they took this six-month program and said, ‘We’ll give you 30 days.’ At first we thought it was outrageous. ‘Why are you guys doing this? She’s worth it.’ We don’t want her out of the house. We love her and we want her at home. But we also want it done right. If she’s only going to go for a short time and come home and have the same issues, then that’s difficult.”

They decided a month-long program was better than nothing, and Issy headed to the treatment center on Jan. 14. The Stapletons worry Issy will be sent home early because they’re low on money, thanks largely to the years of traveling and treatment they’ve sought for a daughter who at times displays great intelligence. Over the years they’ve sought help at the University of Michigan and Beaumont Hospital, among other facilities. Matt said they spent more than $60,000 on therapies between Issy’s second and sixth birthdays.

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