The stories are horrific.
Patrick, 24, had cerebral palsy and couldn’t speak. He was placed in a local nursing home because his mother could no longer cope with his aggressive outbursts.
So a young man whose brain was functioning but whose body wasn’t found himself in a nursing home with seniors. He was forced to share a room with a man who had a history of inappropriate sexual activity.
In January 2013, “in a state of emotional distress, Patrick revealed to his support worker that his roommate had repeatedly touched his groin area at night when Patrick was in bed — sedated and unable to protect himself.”
Police did not pursue charges in that or the earlier case, but a police report noted that the Crown recommended that, to protect other residents, the alleged abuser be kept in his room under constant supervision and away from Patrick.
Other stories document the heartbreaking cycle of violence, aggression or worse — incarcerations — of young adults with autism or other developmental delays who have nowhere to turn.
That’s the title of ombudsman Paul Dube’s long-awaited report on the lack of facilities for adults with developmental disabilities: Nowhere to Turn.
Once a person with developmental disabilities turns 18, they no longer qualify for funding for children’s services. At age 21, they lose funding for public schooling.
With few programs available, they often become more aggressive.
In some cases, families simply abandon their adult children out of frustration and an inability to cope.
This report was commissioned by previous ombudsman Andre Marin. It’s been four years in the making.
Dube outlines in exhaustive detail the frustrations families face.
Roadblocks include an over-complicated system of service agencies and “a baffling lack of flexibility from officials at the top.”
Helping individuals was seen as aiding people to jump the queue.
“Vulnerable people with complex needs were living in hospitals, long-term care homes, homeless shelters and jails — shades of a shameful institutional system that was abolished decades ago,” Dube said.
Since the investigation started, there’s been a change of attitude and leadership in the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Dube’s cautiously optimistic things are getting better.
It can’t come too soon for Leoni and Claude Paquette from North Bay. When they heard the ombudsman was releasing his report, they packed their bags and drove to Toronto.
Their son, Martin, 25, is medically fragile, with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder.
“We deal one day at a time. I have a good husband, we are a good couple and we have four children,” Leoni said.
They get by with a lot of help from their friends — and funding they describe as, “Band-Aid. It’s a little bit here, it’s a little bit there.
“Is it the right amount? No. Does it stress us out? Yes,” Leoni said.
Community Services Minister Helena Jaczek was disarmingly forthright in her response. She apologized to the families.
Jaczek said she was “appalled” when she read the initial draft of the ombudsman’s report.
“It was an entirely unacceptable situation,” she said.
That’s a refreshing change — a minister actually taking ownership of the situation and apologizing. Let’s hope it’s a trend.
Meanwhile, she’s agreed to have her ministry report every six months to Dube on how they’re progressing.
Good. Because this province has a shocking record of neglect when it comes to dealing with the most vulnerable and fragile people in our midst.
Helpless people shouldn’t be turned out onto the mercy of the criminal justice system or consigned to homeless shelters.
We can do better.
We have to do better.