Debating the Facts

Re:  Minister responds, letter to the editor, Aug. 5, Oakville Beaver

The letter by Ms. Meilleur, Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services (MCSS) distorted the present reality facing the families of individuals with
developmental disabilities who remain living at home and do not require a group home environment.

Meilleur accomplished this by including and emphasizing previous spending commitments and omitting several disturbing statistical trends created by her ministry.

When referring to the closure of institutions in 2009, she stated the government “injected $108 million to assist 1,000 former residents into group homes
and created over 1,700 new residential spaces”; however, the actual cost, according to the MCSS in its April 2009, issue 13 of Spotlight on Transformation, was $276 million.  

Therefore, the initial average start-up cost per individual in a group home/residential environment for these 2,700 spaces was approximately $100,000. This figure does not take into account the substantial annual continuing costs regarding supervisory personnel, maintenance and utilities.

The benefit of a group home environment over an institutional one is not an issue; however, over 90% of individuals with developmental disabilities live
with their immediate families.  

The Special Services at Home (SSAH) program for those under 18 years of age and the Passport Program for those finishing their high school eligibility (which could be as late as 21 years of age) were created to financially assist families in providing numerous services, such as physical activities/rehabilitation, meaningful instruction and respite care.

Ms. Meilleur’s figures pertaining to the SSAH annual funding of $103 million for 25,000 families ($4,100 average) and Passport’s annual funding of $45 million for 3,700 adults ($12,000 average), although accurate, failed to mention that since 2009, 4,000 adults were approved for Passport funding but were placed on a waiting list and 9,000 approved families were placed on the SSAH waiting list because of her Ministry’s funding freezes.  

The figures regarding the SSAH waiting list alone are alarming: 3,940 families in 2009, 7,160 families in 2010 and over 9,000 families in 2011.  

Although the 2011 increase in funding for the two programs is appreciated by the limited number of families (approximately 25% this year) who will benefit, it does not take into account the annual number of individuals with developmental disabilities who are “aging out” of the public school system or are annually being diagnosed with developmental disabilities.   

The true magnitude of the government’s limited funding to the families is demonstrated in the disturbing trend of increased funding for “urgent care,” which was not mentioned by the minister. The April 2010 issue 17 of Spotlight on Transformation indicated $36 million was being allotted to urgent care and the 2011 Ontario governmental budget indicates an additional $73.8 million for this sector.  

To qualify as a person with urgent support needs, the individual with a developmental disability is often one in which the family can no longer financially or physically support; therefore, the group home environment and its associated start-up costs, already shown to be upwards of $100,000, would be the only solution.

There is no question these individuals require immediate service through crisis management; however, the government appears to be unaware, or willing to admit, that by refusing to address the earlier lack of funding for those remaining in the care of their parents that these individuals are possible future crisis clients when their parents are no longer able to cope, or are unable to financially provide the required stimulations to keep the developmentally disabled active in the community.  The old adage of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is appropriate in this instance.

Finally, although the minister concluded her letter by thanking Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn “for his tireless efforts on behalf of his constituents regarding
developmental services,” all his well-intentioned efforts are being wasted if funding is withheld from the families on wait lists created by her ministry.

Nick Norvack, Oakville

Reproduced from–debating-the-facts