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Valley mother asks for community's help to find missing teen with autism

Gregory Missing.JPG
Posted at 3:30 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 19:51:35-05

PHOENIX — **Editor's Note: The two teens have been located safe Thursday, December 17.**

A Valley mother is pleading for the community’s help after her son disappeared from a behavioral health facility he had been calling his home for the last four months.

Sixteen-year-old Gregory Edwards, along with 15-year-old Chaz Durfee, have been missing for three days.

Gregory's family is now taking matters into their own hands and putting his pictures out into the community.

“He is not the kind of kid that runs the streets or hangs out. He is not street savvy. I don't want somebody to take advantage of him,” said his mother, Shannon Edwards.

Both Chaz and Gregory have mental illnesses and are not on their medication. And now, both have been roaming the streets on his own for the last three days.

Edwards is devastated and wonders how her son is spending these cold winter nights. “He doesn't have to be scared to come home. He's not in trouble and don't hurt him please, don't hurt him,” Edwards said. “Just please don't hurt him. Just let him come home to his family.”

Edwards says her son needed around the clock care. His family admitted him into the Deveraux Advanced Behavioral Care Facility.

“We could not care for Gregory 24 hours here. We were afraid he would hurt himself so he was placed there as a precaution and to keep him safe,” his mother said.

Because of the pandemic, the facility has been on lockdown so she was only able to visit him through Zoom.

Four days ago, Edwards received the dreaded phone call that her son had disappeared from the facility that was supposed to be caring for him.

“Gregory was supposed to be on suicide watch which means you should have had one-on-one 24-hour care. Somebody watching you. He should never have had the opportunity to ever get out of that facility,” Edwards said.

The family is just desperate to find their son and is questioning why Phoenix police have not proactively put Gregory's pictures out there..

They also said Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is not answering any of their questions.

“I put my baby in your hands and I expect him to come home the same way I gave him to you,” Edwards said.

Phoenix police have confirmed the missing person's report.

If you do see Gregory Edwards, his family warns because of his autism, to not approach or frighten him.

You are asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department if you see the teens.

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health sent the following statement to ABC15 regarding Gregory:

"First, we want to thank ABC15 for your help in getting the word out regarding these two missing teens. Their health and safety is of paramount concern. We are grateful for your help and the outstanding response from the Phoenix Police Department.

We ask the public to assist in our search and to please call the police if they think they have seen the boys. A few things to keep in mind to help prevent any harm to them:

Children and teens with Autism may not react to strangers in the same ways as children without Autism.
Children with Autism may be less able to communicate freely and may not understand why a stranger is approaching them, even if it is to provide help or assistance.
It would not be unusual for a child or teen with Autism to run away from a stranger or to ignore a stranger.
If you do see the teens, a few tips:
Maintain enough physical distance so they don’t become alarmed – six feet at a minimum.
Keep your posture calm and relaxed so they don’t become afraid.
Speak slowly, clearly and in a calm voice.
Introduce yourself by your first name and ask simply, “Do you need any help?”
Ask if there is a special person you could call for them.
Model calm and relaxed breathing. This will help the teens not to be afraid.
If you believe you have seen these teens, please call law enforcement immediately and share their location.

The moment these teens left our program, we immediately began coordinating with the local police department via Crime Stop. We urgently shared with the responding police officer their identifying information (including pictures), their ages, what they were wearing, and important medical and clinical information. Since that time, we have been in daily communication with law enforcement and family members.

We are closely coordinating with law enforcement, including facilitating information sharing between our other clients, our staff and the police to ensure no stone is left unturned in this search. We have staff dedicated to the search on all shifts and we have clinical staff standing by 24/7, ready to immediately deploy to support police when they locate the teens.

We are fully focused on partnering with law enforcement in their efforts, searching on the ground across the region and doing everything we can to support the families at this very difficult time.
Sincerely,

Dr. Yvette Jackson, LMSW, DBH | Executive Director"