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Mother risks losing custody of autistic son if they leave U.P. hospital

Photo of Al courtesy of Ginnie Killough
Nicole Walton
Photo of Al courtesy of Ginnie Killough

A Marquette woman and her son with autism have been living in a hospital emergency department for the past 13 days. She could lose guardianship of him if they leave.

Ginnie Killough’s 31-year-old son, Al, has been living at home for 13 years with community and home help support. He had a behavioral episode two weeks ago and was brought by ambulance to the ER. The staffing agency then cut its services, citing lack of staff and Al’s increasing needs.

Behavioral health agency Pathways says Al needs a psychiatric evaluation downstate, but no beds are available, and if Ginnie goes against the recommendation, she might lose custody of her son. “Adult Protective Services says if I take him home, they will take me to court and try to take my guardianship away,” she says.

Ginnie says Al doesn’t need a psych evaluation — he needs support for his autism. And she will wait as long as it takes to get it.

Nicole was born near Detroit but has lived in the U.P. most of her life. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and attended Michigan State and Northern Michigan Universities, graduating from NMU in 1993 with a degree in English.