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Government highlights plan to make access easier for special needs

From left – Evelyn Bradford, Chris Bradford and Susan Thibodeau will be attending the April 10 meeting held at the Bridge Adult Service Centre. 

AMHERST - Independence is the one thing we all covet and once we have it some of us take it for granted. But for some Nova Scotians independency is more of a dream than an opportunity.

The Nova Scotia government recently released the document ‘Putting People First’ and are asking for the public’s response.

The document talks about 40,000 Nova Scotians, who are aging, or have mental or physical disabilities who rely on the services provided by the Continuing Care (CC) branch of the Department of Health and Wellness (DHW) – in conjunction with District Health Authorities (DHA) and the Services for Persons with Disabilities Program (SPD) of the Department of Community Services (DCS).

Susan Thibodeau, executive director of the Bridge Adult Service Centre, said the underlining issue at play is accessing these services is often challenging and confusing.

“A lot of the services that are provided to people in Nova Scotia are fragmented. When people go to these services some people may need services from a couple of those areas. But when they go to a service, each service has there own means of assessing the needs of that individual.”

The province is trying to adopt a person-focused approach. In doing so they hope to coordinate the services for the individual, focusing squarely on the person and not just the disability or the services they require.

The document also mentions how there is no service option that addresses individuals who require multidimensional support needs.

Evelyn Bradford, chairperson of Canadian Association for Community Living, Amherst and District Branch, has a son, Chris, who requires some of these different services. Bradford said it’s difficult to access these different services but the document’s mention of a potential one-point entry, making the services more accessible and local, is encouraging.

“They’re talking about the services being more community focused. Right now there are some people in the province who have an intellectual disability who actually have to leave their home community and they have to go somewhere else and live in a large institution. And nobody is finding that acceptable.”

This is the step the government needs to take because Nova Scotia has placed a very high emphasis on out-of-home institutional services costing the government hundreds of millions and it’s inefficient, Thibodeau said.

“That’s the big thing, to provide services in the community for the individual so they can stay in the community and stay with their family. Nova Scotia has the highest ratio of nursing home beds to population in the country. Our ratio is 20 per cent higher then the national average.”

From Bradford’s experience, people want community-focused support and they have the right to want it.

“This is what we are hoping for, that the government is moving forward with the plan. People with intellectual or physical disabilities have the right to live in there community,” Bradford said.

If the plan is initiated and it all goes well the services could increase community living and enable people to live more independently. Services will be provided to the person where they live rather than moving them to the services. Thibodeau said.

The reason the government is issuing this document and setting up meetings across the province is to get input from the families and the people this will affect.

“We’re encouraged that people are being asked (by the government) for their feedback,” Bradford said.

That’s why the meeting is so important, Thibodeau said.

“This could mean major changes to how people receive services in the community.”

Thibodeau and Bradford will be holding a meeting on Wednesday, April 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bridge Adult Service Centre to discuss the document and to get the public’s opinion on it. There will representatives from the Department of Community Services, the Department of Health and Wellness and officials from the provincial government attending. Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting.

Organizations: Department of Health and Wellness, Community Services, Bridge Adult Service Centre Services for Persons DCS Canadian Association for Community Living Amherst and District Branch

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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