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New law named after Mandeville man, could clear way for more independent living, for those with disabilities

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 3:00 PM CDT
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MANDEVILLE, La. (WVUE) - Parents and advocates for individuals with disabilities across the state praise a new law which will allow many to live more independently.

It is called the Dustin Gary Act, named after a young man from Mandeville whose family is determined to provide him the fullest life possible.

With a stroke of a pen the Governor brings Louisiana in line with 22 other states.

The Dustin Gary act allows someone with disabilities to have a team of people help them with important life decisions.

Dustin watched last week's bill signing from his home in Mandeville, via Facetime.

It is a dream come true for hundreds of families and for Dustin’s mother Liz, an advocate, who’s worked on the act for two years.

"Without this act I would basically have to pick tutorship or interdiction which would take away all of his rights," said Liz Gary.

Under the new law people like Dustin’s sister Abby Lynn, who is studying to be a nurse, could legally assist him in making medical decisions and gain access to previously privileged information.

I think a lot of people are going to realize the potential of this and how far reaching it could be and how much less restrictive it'll be for the family and the individuals," said Liz Gary.

The bill sets up a legal framework for Dustin and other individuals with disabilities, to have a team of advisors on everything from business decisions to banking.

"We will have a document drawn up that will be notarized we will have a document with us," said Gary.

In this age of party divisions, supporters of the Dustin Gary act were stunned by the bipartisan support for the measure.

"We had major support in the legislature, we didn't hit any obstacles or hurdles," said parent Ashley McReynolds, who helped pass the bill.

Though supported decision-making is new to Louisiana it’s been in other states for 15 years.

“We looked at Texas, Indiana in New Jersey they kind of had the best ones,” said Kelly Monroe, with ‘The Arc’.

Dustin Gary likes to pressure wash and paint and the Governor signed a special memento for him, a paintbrush.

Now his mother says with a little help, he may be able to open his own paint store one day.

At the bill signing Dustin had one question.

"He wants to know when the quarantine is going to end," said Liz Gary. "I don't know, don't know,' said Governor John Bel Edwards.

But after the quarantine, with the help of the new ‘supported decision making act’ Dustin’s family, and hundreds of other families across Louisiana believe their loved ones with disabilities, will have a much brighter future.

The Dustin Gary act goes into effect August 1. For More information contact ‘The Arc’. here’s the link:https://thearc.org/

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