February 24, 2017
On August 24th 2016, the Ombudsman of Ontario released his report and recommendations on crisis situations involving adults with developmental disabilities. At that time I made a commitment to accept all the recommendations and to report back on the ministry’s progress on implementing those recommendations every six months.
Now, six months later, I’m encouraged by what we have done so far to further our goal of transformation in developmental services and, most importantly, what we’ve done to make a meaningful impact in the lives of the individuals and families that we serve. But even with this progress, there remains so much more we need to do to realise our vision of an inclusive, individualised and person-centred approach to serving some of the province’s most vulnerable people.
Working with individuals, families and our many community partners, we are targeting new solutions to finding safe and affordable housing. Our new LifeShare pilot campaign, our Housing Task Force projects, our Multi-Year Residential Strategy, the work underway with the Intentional Community Consortium (ICC) and, the Housing Forum we hosted in November in partnership with the Ministry of Housing, are all efforts to find or expand more inclusive living arrangements.
Our goal is to provide greater flexibility, choice and inclusion in the developmental services that we offer. We’re making it easier to access benefits through simplified application processes. And, we recently announced the elimination of the 2014 Passport waitlist by the end of next month - one year ahead of schedule - providing direct funding for an additional 13,000 adults with developmental disabilities.
We’ve also taken further action to improve the safety and security of adults with developmental disabilities, through the launch of ReportON, a 24/7 direct phone and e-mail service for reporting suspected or witnessed abuse or neglect.
We are continuing to partner with other ministries across government, in particular the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), to find longer-term residential solutions, especially for those with urgent and complex care needs. Together, we are developing guidelines to be released in the spring, which will support adults with developmental disabilities when applying for and/or transitioning to long-term care. We have also created the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program, in partnership with Surrey Place which aims to ease access to primary health care for those with developmental disabilities. And finally, we are also hiring 40 new mental health court support workers, to reside within provincial court houses, that will specialize in helping persons with developmental disabilities and/or dual diagnosis who are in conflict with the law to be transitioned from the justice system to more appropriate services.
In addition to work with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, I also continue to engage other cabinet colleagues across government, including the Ministers of Children and Youth Services, Community Safety and Correctional Services, Education, Housing, and the Attorney General to find ways we can all work across ministries to support individuals with developmental disabilities. I’ve also spoken with other provincial government colleagues about ways our governments could collectively work together to better support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. And I look forward to continuing to work with the federal government, in particular as they develop new accessibility legislation and begin the process of consulting on Canada’s accession to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
While we’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made together with our partners, there is also ongoing foundational work for future progress including research, increased use of technology and data collection, further consultation with the sector, and additional or realigned resources. This work will eventually see better cooperation with service agencies, across government as well as with other jurisdictions.
While we have made progress in addressing the Ombudsman’s recommendations, much work is still required to drive change in the developmental services sector. We’ve made progress in finding housing solutions, but there are still a number of individuals in Ontario with developmental disabilities living in inappropriate settings. We need to work more efficiently and in closer collaboration with our partners to deliver on our promise of real change because there are still too many people with developmental disabilities who are not receiving the services and supports they need. This is unacceptable.
Our greatest asset in tackling the challenges ahead are the partnerships we’ve forged with those who share our vision of providing greater choice and flexibility for our clients and their families. Over the past six months and since becoming Minister, I’ve traveled the province and have met with countless adults with lived experience as well as family members and service partners who are helping to guide our approach. Following our Housing Forum in November, I heard from many families who were thrilled to be part of the larger conversation and are eager to be part of the solutions for supporting their loved ones, because they know they also have a role to play.
I’ve met incredible leaders and champions in the developmental services sector who have accomplished outstanding work in furthering our common goals. I commend them on their work in this sector. Transformation is a shared responsibility that is bigger than government. We need to work together to expand ideas whereby people living within their communities are able to achieve greater independence and inclusion.
I encourage Ontarians to visit our web page on DS Transformation to learn more about the ministry, the supports we provide and the work we have underway.
Again, I’d like to convey my appreciation to the Ombudsman and his office for their work in bringing attention to some of the province’s most vulnerable – adults with developmental disabilities in crisis, and reiterate my commitment to working with him to further our collective efforts toward transforming developmental services across Ontario.
The Honourable Dr. Helena Jaczek
Minister of Community and Social Services