Workers at a nonprofit that serves Georgians with disabilities were shocked to learn in early January that one of their former clients had been killed in a murder-suicide. It’s not simply that investigators suspect Megan Frix, 26, was murdered by her father. Yet, she was the second Creative Enterprises Forsyth client whose death was caused by a family caregiver.
Among developed countries, the United States has the highest rate of child murder. The most common perpetrator of child homicide is a parent. In the United States, parents who have killed their children account for about 2.5% of all homicide arrests. Each year, approximately 500 filicide arrests are made.
Filicide is unfortunately common among parents of disabled children. According to one study conducted by The University of California, Irvine, 26 disabled children were identified as victims of filicide-suicide in 22 news articles published between 1982 and 2010. More than 80% of the victims were male. In addition, 54% were autistic.
Creative Enterprises employees see the homicides as the worst outcome of an overburdened system. They also question whether providing occasional 24-hour care for those with disabilities may have prevented the tragedy.
State Sen. Sally Harrell, who oversaw legislative hearings into disability issues, spoke about Frix’s death on the Senate floor on Jan. 13, one week after the murder-suicide occurred. According to her, police suspect Jerry Frix, 58, killed his autistic daughter and himself at his home in Cumming. Frix’s wife died a few years ago, and he left his job to care for Megan, according to Harrell. Although the Frix family received in-home care for Megan, Harrell believes it was insufficient.
According to the evidence before the Senate Study Committee on Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, places that care for Georgians with disabilities are closing. The agencies that remain are experiencing difficulty retaining workers.
Meanwhile, thousands of disabled Georgians compete for state-funded services, although there aren’t enough staff to deliver them. State officials are working to bolster the safety net and have implemented a plan to raise wages for support staff from around $10.63 an hour to $15.18 an hour.
That proposal still needs layers of state and federal approval, which might take a year to implement. Several providers are concerned that the projected increase is insufficient to recruit and retain staff. Georgia’s minimum wage is currently $5.15 per hour. The state has one of the lowest minimum wages in the US, along with Wyoming, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has been since 2009.
Parents should love their children unconditionally. Parents should have access to services to help their children. Unfortunately, many systems are ineffective.
Furthermore, as part of the state’s budget, Gov. Brian Kemp has suggested assisting another 250 disabled people, and the legislature is considering adding even more. However, as of December 2022, there are more than 7,000 people on the waiting list for a Medicaid waiver statewide.
In December, Harrell’s study committee advised that Georgia go even further. They requested the legislature add funding for disability programs for an additional 2,400 individuals to next year’s budget.
In the United States, for example, many disabled people have been on Medicaid waiting lists. Nationwide, there are 820,000 disabled people on waiting lists for home and community-based services. 40% of those waiting for services are under the age of 65. The wait can sometimes last a decade or more.
Medicaid can cover in-home nursing care, attendant care, therapy, and respite care, among other services. This support is critical for many families. It can mean their disabled child resides at home rather than in an institution.
Medicaid must be expanded, and waiting lists must be removed. Without Medicaid’s services, people are frequently forced into dangerous situations, which can have tragic consequences.
Bunch, Riley. “Georgia Legislative Committee Proposes Path to End Disability Services Waitlist.” Georgia Public Broadcasting, NPR, 14 Dec. 2022, https://www.gpb.org/news/2022/12/14/georgia-legislative-committee-proposes-path-end-disability-services-waitlist.
Coorg, Rohini, and Anne Tournay. “Filicide-suicide involving children with disabilities.” Journal of child neurology vol. 28,6 (2013): 745-51. doi:10.1177/0883073812451777
Diament, Michelle. “Community-Based Services Should Be Mandatory Medicaid Offering, Federal Agency Says.” Disability Scoop, Disability Scoop, 12 Dec. 2022, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2022/12/13/community-based-services-should-be-mandatory-medicaid-offering-federal-agency-says/30172/.
Landergan, Katherine, and Jeremy Redmon. “AJC Exclusive: Disability Community Worries Lack of Services Drove Desperate Acts.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cox Enterprises, 10 Mar. 2023, https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-news/disability-community-worries-lack-of-services-drove-desperate-acts/IS7WYZFGVFALLECE644PS26BVA/.
Resnick, Phillip J. “Filicide in the United States.” Indian journal of psychiatry vol. 58,Suppl 2 (2016): S203-S209. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.196845
Ripley, Joe. “Georgia Lawmakers Push to Increase State’s, Minimum Wage.” 11Alive.Com, Tegna Inc., 7 Feb. 2023, https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/state-lawmakers-push-increase-minimum-wage-georgia/85-f3a173f1-21b0-4c2d-810a-2890cfdc5231.