By now many of our readers will be familiar with the case of Sharisa Joy Kochmeisters, who was removed from her family’s care against her will. Her human rights were removed and she was subsequent placed into an entirely unsuitable care facility for patients with Dementia. Sharisa had her own legal guardianship, but has had it taken away by Jefferson County Colorado.
Until now the exact details of what happened to Sharisa, to start this dreadful chain of events and now placement in a host home with intermittent contact with her family, has been limited.
We have been in regular touch with her father, Jan Kochmeister, who is desperately campaigning to get his daughter back to the family home and her human rights reinstated. The family has been granted a couple of visits since August 10th.
Jan last saw Sharisa on Monday August 17th, four of her friends also made the journey to see her. Jan updated us as follows:
“I saw Sharisa on Monday, as did four of her friends. She is happy and healthy looking, says the people in the host home are “nice”, but expressed her “dire need for an attorney” and her desire to return to her “own home” immediately.
She had positive interactions with my wife and me, and very strong interactions with her friends. We are waiting to see what the next step will be”.
For those unfamiliar with Sharisa’s story, she is an autistic woman aged 36 with complex health needs. She has a genius IQ and communicates via communicational devices. She is an advisor on Panel of Spectrum Advisors for Autism Society of America. Sharisa also has an honours degree in Psychology and Sociology, having studied at Denver University. She was featured in the Autism documentary ‘Loving Lampposts’ and is a well known figure on social media.
Jan explained to me that Sharisa requires constant supervision and went on to say:
“She also needs a trusted person beside her to ease her communication, Sharisa has been a tireless and award-winning advocate for the rights of all people with disabilities for the past 24 years, and has assessed people with communication difficulties/needs and presented keynotes, panels and trainings throughout the USA and Canada. She’s past president of AUTCOM – The autism National Committee, past member of the Colorado Disabilities planning”.
I asked Jan what happened that day?
“On March 11 th, 2015, while she was hospitalized for testing, Sharisa, who has Cyclicic Vomiting Syndrome, vomited in her bed. I called the nurses and they came in, cleaned her a little, and left. Sharisa was on her back with her mouth closed and looked like she still had vomit in her mouth, so, as per usual, I opened the side of her mouth with one finger and tried to clear it to prevent aspiration. At that point, Sharisa knocked me hard so I tapped her hard on her knee to prevent further kicks and moved away from her reach. This was all being videotaped (a tape I have yet to see) and hospital staff misinterpreted this as abuse.
I was asked to stay out of her room, sat in a family waiting lounge all night long, and was escorted to a taxi with a voucher and sent home in the morning, Subsequently, I was subjected to a criminal investigation and questioning, as was my quite innocent wife, and the investigator and City of Denver DA found there was no foundation for criminal charges.
The Jefferson County Adult Protective Services then seized guardianship of Sharisa, claiming she was “incapacitated” and a VICTIM OF NEGLECT despite the fact she had always been her own guardian. She was in the hospital for about 5 weeks, then in a nursing home for a month plus, and now has been placed in a “host home” about an hour away from us.
I had no visits between March 11th and July 14th when she finally communicated with me via a Buddy Board that she wanted to come home. They said her communication was “a real eye opener” but still didn’t schedule a visit until August 10th, claiming she needed time to adjust to the host home. Again she communicated that she wishes to come home and they replied that “it’s a process” and “takes time” but they will now schedule weekly visits and consider “removing supervision”.
Jan is clearly upset and right now is in court proceedings. He had to check with his lawyer before even granting Autism Daily Newscast this interview. He wanted to convey this message to our readers:
“I had never previously spent even a month away from Sharisa. It feels like a deep loss, has led to both physical and emotional distress for me, and my wife and I feel as if we’ve been unjustly criminalized. Sharisa says it’s ludicrous, feels frustrated, misses her friends and family and wants her voice heard and rights acknowledged. There have been petitions and press releases and we patiently await a call for our next visit.”
Fellow autistic advocate, Amy Sequenzia, wrote a scathing article Sharisa Joy Kochmeister: Give Her Back the Right to Communcate, were she eloquently explained to anyone who wondered why Sharisa might choose not to communicate with anyone outside her family. Sequenzia also goes on to outline the violations of her human rights:
“Here is the bottom line: Social workers in Colorado decided that, because Sharisa “refused to communicate”, she has a low IQ. They decided that this low IQ indicates a lack of an elusive competence, that it indicates that a person is a lesser human being. They decided that she cannot understand her own feelings, that she cannot have complex thoughts and that she should not be heard in anything concerning her own life. They decided that Sharisa should not be allowed any contact with friends.
How many rights violations can you count in the previous paragraph?”
When asked what else he wanted to add, Jan stated:
“This is totally wrong and unjust, violates ADA, Civil and human rights and needs to end NOW!”
Our hopes are with the Kochmeisters so that Sharsia may continue to give the much needed services to the community and provide vital education to the public.