Ontario ombudsman calls for systematic overhaul of care for adults with developmental disabilities
Chronic service gaps for adults with disabilities are leaving them abandoned, abused and often languishing in jails and hospitals without proper care, according to findings of an Ontario ombudsman’s report released today.
To address the problem, Ombudsman Paul Dubé is calling for a sweeping, systematic overhaul of the entire care system in an effort to help developmentally disabled adults and family members who often struggle to care for them.
Almost four years in the making, the report says the service gaps are leaving developmentally disabled adults without appropriate care and their “desperate” families in situations that are sometimes dangerous.
These “extreme and egregious cases” point to a need for more support, Dubé writes.
The report says that while some progress has been made in recent years to help developmentally disabled adults and their families, the care level is still falling short of the need. In some cases, desperate families face a maze of different social service agencies and are often left unable to find appropriate care. In a few cases, families have had to abandon their loved ones, Dubé says.
In compiling the report titled Nowhere To Turn, Dubé’s office investigated more than 1,400 complaints from families across the province.
Molested, abandoned, homeless
The report details 18 cases of adults with developmental disabilities and complex needs — from autism to mental health issues — left homeless, abandoned or inappropriately housed in hospitals, long-term care facilities and jails. The cases show that these adults who fell through the cracks did not receive appropriate care.
Specific cases highlighted in the report include:
- A 24-year-old man who lived for months in a long-term care home where he injured one senior and was molested by another.
- An autistic man who spent 12 years in psychiatric units.
- A woman who could not stay in an abusive home and was moved 20 times in 34 days.
- A developmentally disabled adult who was abandoned by an exhausted, ill relative after two of her other caregivers died.
The report makes 60 recommendations, which Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek has committed to implementing.
- Preventing adults with developmental disabilities from returning to abusive situations.
- Preventing adults with developmental disabilities from being housed in hospitals or facilities where they don’t get proper care.
- Improved tracking and monitoring of case files.
Minister vows to make changes
Jaczek said she was “appalled” by many of the report’s findings and vowed to make changes to address funding gaps.
“I’m certainly very sorry about the situations,” said Jaczek. “We should have taken a more active role. We needed a better response from the ministry,” she said.
Dubé said that early on in his investigation, Social Services Ministry officials weren’t always willing to fix problems that left vulnerable people without proper care.
“They took a hands-off approach and said ‘We are not case managers,'” he said.
However, Dubé said he’s since seen some progress.
“Officials are no longer aloof and are more willing to engage directly in resolving individual crisis cases,” he said.
In 2014, the government devoted $810 million over three years to improve services, but Dubé said “progress has been incremental.”
“There is still a marked inconsistency in how limited funds are prioritized and distributed,” he said as families struggle with long wait list delays.