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Dying for change: After two women with special needs are killed by their caregivers, community demands support

Megan Frix, 26, was a former client of the Creative Enterprises Adult Care Facility when she was killed by her father. Amy Hughes was also killed by her caregiver.

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — It's a headline most parents can't imagine – a caregiver killing their own child or dependent because they can no longer care for them. But it's the reality for an adult care facility for people with profound disabilities in Georgia.

It's happened twice in the past few years and people who work there said they're trying to make sure it never happens again.

Creative Enterprises Director Lisa Bennett wants to help people tell their own stories. However, she said far too often the stories of how adults with profound disabilities live and how they die never make it past their walls.

"Megan was one of ours, and the story needed to be told," she said. 

Megan Frix, 26, was a former client of the Creative Enterprises Adult Care Facility, for people with disabilities in Forsyth County, when she was killed by her father this winter– before he took his own life.

"In one of the most affluent areas in the state, if not the country, this is happening. So I know it's happening elsewhere," Bennett said. "This can't be happening again."

Just two years earlier, another client of Creative Enterprises, Amy Hughes, was killed by her caregiver. She was given a lethal drug overdose at her home. But, her name was never in the news.

"She was sunshine. And she was a good friend and she was funny," Creative Enterprises Program Coordinator Abby Otwell said. 

A report from the Ruderman Family Foundation found someone with a disability is killed once a week on average in the United States – but the coverage of their deaths is often glazed over.

"I was just tired of it being sugarcoated. And I just felt like people needed to understand the reality, that this is what these families go through," Otwell said. 

People with disabilities are at a much greater risk of being the victim of violent crime than someone without a disability, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The families of people with profound disabilities said they often feel misunderstood.

"We kinda liken it to walking around with a stick of dynamite," parent Kathryn Walesch said.

One parent explained that it's a full-time job that consistently requires more than maybe they can give.

"There's no break, there's no vacation. There's no time away," parent Debbie Lange said.

The current clients of Creative Enterprises said they're grateful for the support they get at the all-day care facility. However, thousands of families in Georgia don't have access to that type of care.

"It is daily grief. It is heartbreak daily. Now he's 16. He's bigger than me, he's stronger than me. He's frustrated because he doesn't have a voice. He can't tell me, 'Oh mommy, I am hurting,'" parent Tiffany Nicole Avinger-Williams said. 

She wears a helmet in her home to protect herself from her son. There's less she can do to protect her heart.

"I don't have a plan. There is no plan B. There is nothing," she said. 

Her 16-year-old son, Carlos, was diagnosed with severe autism. 

Avinger-Williams said she understands the desperation parents feel when there's nowhere for their kids to go.

"Parents always say, 'I never want to outlive my kids.' But in my case, I have to outlive mine, I have to. Because he has nowhere to go," she said. 

They're all calling for the state to increase support for families caring for people with profound disabilities in Georgia – to see their worth and value their story.

"Truly, I was frustrated and I was heartbroken. And I felt like, 'How many times does this have to happen before something changes?'" Otwell said.

The people at Creative Enterprises set up an online fundraiser to pay for Frix's funeral. They also built a gazebo to honor Hughes in their garden. 

They said these women were loved and should be remembered.

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