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Paratransit Bus Drops Off Man With Severe Autism Miles Away From Home

(CBS) -- A man with severe autism ended up shivering in the cold all alone after being dropped off by a transit service miles from home.

The driver was supposed to drop him off in Maywood. Instead he ended up two miles away in Forest Park. In this Original Report, CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports what happened.

27-year-old Jason Harlan dances. Harlan has autism and is unable to have full conversations and functions at the level of a three-year-old child.

On Friday, Jason's mother, Debra Vines, was expecting him at their Maywood home, between 4 and 4:15 in the afternoon. Jason uses the Pace Paratransit service to get to and from UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago in Cicero, where he attends a day program. Vines says she called Pace Paratransit, several times.

"It's like 20 minutes to 6:00 at this point and I said, 'Where's my son!' I'm screaming. I'm livid!" Vines said.

Minutes later a supervisor tells Vines, "'Jason was dropped off at 5:05 at 1038 Troost Avenue,' and at this point, I'm like screaming, "Are you kidding me! I don't live there anymore!"

Vines raced over to the Forest Park address she moved from nearly three weeks ago. She found Jason cold and confused. He'd been standing outside for about 45 minutes.

"We see a lot of reversion in him, just because of this incident," Vines said. "Jason started wetting the bed."

Vines says Jason is also having separation issues and won't let her out of his sight.

Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot issued a statement that says: "We are disappointed by what happened on Jason's recent trip on our service. We have safeguards and protocols in place to prevent incidents like this from happening. Pace's procedures were not followed by our contractor and the driver and dispatcher have been removed from service as the investigation continues. We are reviewing what happened and will look for any changes we can make to our procedures that could help to prevent any future reoccurrence. We sincerely regret that this happened and want to express to Jason and his family how sorry we are."

Vines says for Jason, riding the bus alone, was a milestone. Now, he doesn't want to do it. Vines will be driving him to Seguin for his services. That program provider says the Pace Paratransit Service is very valuable, adding they would like to see changes in how Pace verifies a client's ridership information after this incident.

Casey Burke, the Director of Employment and Day Services for UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago, says "We think the Pace Paratransit service is very valuable. Once we relinquish our clients to that service, we no longer have control. It would appear a mistake was made on the provider's part. We would like to see changes made as to how Pace verifies a client's ridership information as a whole."

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