By DONAL O’CONNOR STAFF REPORTER
A Stratford mother whose nine-year-old son requires immediate treatment for a number of mental-health and related behavioral
problems is wondering how her family will cope with a six-month or longer wait for a hospital bed.
Crystal Sauve, 38, with the backing of a team of medical and social service providers, has obtained approval for a
residential treatment bed for her son Darius at London’s Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI), a facility operated
under Children’s Mental Health Ontario.
What troubles Sauve, however, is that she’s been told Darius may have to wait six months to a year for an available bed.
“He looks ill. He doesn’t look good,” said Sauve earlier this week at her Front St. home.
Just last Monday, Darius experienced a grand mal seizure, she said.
Darius suffers from a number of medical conditions, one of which is agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC), a rare birth
defect. The structure connecting the two hemispheres of his brain is compromised, causing developmental delays and other
Sauve said her son has been having tremors, his behaviour is unpredictable and he can “stimulate” off any number of things.
She expects a call from Darius’s school every day requesting that she pick him up because he has been exhibiting violent
behaviour or is otherwise unmanageable.
“It’s a crisis situation and there are no crisis beds,” said Sauve, a VON nurse who has availed herself of all the community
support she has been able to find -including at-home respite care through the Community Care Access Centre.
Earlier this week, she appealed for help at the office of Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece, hoping that somehow a bed
can be found for Darius so that he can get the medications monitoring and treatment he needs.
Sauve said she contacted The Beacon Herald as well in an effort to “put a push on a bed.”
“I imagine there are other people out there waiting for a bed too,” she said.
Darius’s condition manifests sometimes in manic episodes. Once he stayed awake for 50 hours. He can suddenly become
aggressive and he has huge mood swings, his mom said.
“At one moment he’s really calm and then he’s grabbing at you, then he’s crying.”
Darius’s condition worsened at the end of the summer when he returned to school. He wasn’t able to handle his new and larger
class at Romeo Public School, his mother said.
Earlier, he had been “a very social child.”
Sauve said she is exhausted and doesn’t know what more she can do. Much of the time she has her three other children at home
Currently Sauve is off work recovering from a leg injury. She wants to return to work, she said, but she has no choice other
than to stay home with Darius.
About two and a half weeks ago Darius was admitted for a stay of several days at a hospital psychiatric ward in London but
was having separation anxiety and was discharged.
“He’s nine but developmentally he’s only four,” said Sauve.
“There’s lots of help for adults (locally) but nothing for children in the area.”
Stratford General Hospital is not set up for situations like her son’s, she said.
“I’m not giving up, because he’s my baby. Once he was well, a social butterfly. He just needs the right medication.”
Sauve said she appreciates all the support she has been getting through respite hours, the Huron-Perth Centre for Children
and Youth, Family Services, from her family doctor and pediatrician Dr. Clare Mitchell at CPRI in London, but what Darius
needs is a residential bed.
“I’m getting to the breaking point,” she said.
Terri Sparling, CEO of the Huron-Perth Centre and a member of the CPRI advisory committee for more than 10 years, said she’s
optimistic about the improvement of mental health and other services for children both locally and regionally but
acknowledged “it is a provincial crisis -there are not enough resources to meet the need.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to get service at the community level or whether you need what is considered a
tertiary level service, there is a wait.”
While she couldn’t comment on any particular case, Sparling explained that decisions are made in part by the time frame when
a person applies as well as the degree of distress related to the illness.
The system is working hard to use whatever investment has been offered, said Sparling, but that doesn’t always change where
the pressure points are.
The length of wait for a CPRI bed is based on a very individual evaluation that relates to the circumstances of the
particular case, she said. For instance, if a child is suicidal, those families don’t wait at all.
It’s important that people recognize the demand for services far exceeds the system’s ability to meet the need, said
Sparling. “We do everything we can to serve people however we can.”
Sparling said she expects to see a change in waiting lists probably by April.
“It takes a bit of time to ramp up.”
She emphasized that people needing the services of the Huron-Perth Centre or CPRI should not hesitate in seeking help and
“making the call in the first place.”
This past summer, the Ontario government announced a Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy that it said would
provide more than 50,000 Ontario children and their families with “quicker and easier access to the right mental health
supports, when and where they need them.”
Measures included “fast access to high-quality services, early identification and support and helping vulnerable kids with
The government said it would be spending $257 million over three years in support of the improved program.
In September, the Huron-Perth Centre for Children and Youth was given the go-ahead to add the equivalent of four and a half
new staff positions as a result of the new provincial funding. The centre got more than $300,000 for that purpose.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Rosaline Salo, was recruited last year by the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance.
Article ID# 3444873