Difficult struggle to find group homes for people with disabilities
Published Friday, February 13, 2015 11:41AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 13, 2015 11:42AM EST
Most parents share a common dream of seeing their children become independent and moving out of the family home to start their own lives.
For parents of children with special needs that goal is much harder to achieve, in part because there are long waiting lists for government-funded group homes.
Lacey Cammy is one person who wants to live on her own, but is still living with her parents, and her mother Beverly says her greatest desire is to make sure Lacey can flourish.
"The most important thing to me, that she should be accepted. Because when you have special needs, people look and people stare and people talk," said Cammy.
Diagnosed with a global developmental delay before her third birthday, Lacey's cognitive, motor and social skills were delayed. Lacey cannot read and remains at the level of a seven-year-old, even though she's 28.
"We were told back in the day that Lacey would never talk. Certain things I accepted, certain things I didn't. She's my daughter, I'm a motor mouth, there was no way she wasn't going to talk! And talk she does!" said Cammy.
Beverly and her husband worked tirelessly for years, and as Lacey grew up she expressed a desire to live on her own.
"The thing that got me going was knowing that by the magical age of 21-years-old there would be a group home for Lacey," said Cammy.
Average wait of three years
Lacey is currently part of an integrated day program at Dawson College and participates in assorted activities through Miriam Home, a rehabilitation centre for people with intellectual disabilities.
The group home also helps Lacey deal with her Type One diabetes and other needs, but while it has many long-term residents it does not have space for Lacey.
The Executive Director of Miriam Home, Daniel Amar, said there are 50 families in Montreal who are similar to the Cammys. On average they wait three years for an adult child to be given an assisted-living residence.
"Of course there is a cluster of parents who may wait five to nine years. We have about ten clients, ten families in that area," said Amar.
Miriam Home is legally obligated to respond to emergencies when a caregiver is hospitalized or when violence is involved.
Long-term spaces are not allocated on a first-come first-serve basis.
"It's on severity. Are there mobility issues with the parents? They're more fragile, they're less able to take care of their child," Amar said.
Meanwhile Miriam Home has had its budget cut by 10 percent, or $2.5 million, over the past two and a half years.
This when Amar predicts the need for group homes for people with mental disabilities is going to grow.
"Everybody knows there's an epidemic in autism. It is growing and growing and growing. These autistic children will become autistic adults and will all require residential treatment at some point and therefore we'd better start thinking now because there's a demographic balloon coming up the pike in the next 15 years," said Amar.
"It's going to hit us in the face."
No new funding
The Minister responsible for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection and Public Health, Lucie Charlebois, said the government is analyzing residential services to see if resources are being used in the best way, so that possibly, it could free up money to create additional spaces.
But Charlebois did not mention any possibility of new government funding.
There is one way that Lacey will get moved into Miriam Home immediately, but it's not pleasant.
Cammy has been told that if she or her husband dies, Lacey will get a space, and it's unlikely Lacey will get a spot in the group home before that happens.
"When you pass away, we'll have room for Lacey. So that's supposed to pacify me, I guess," said Cammy.
"I guess on one hand I have to say thank you because she won't be out on the street. But why do I have to wait?"
"I want to live a new chapter of my life and I want to have the pleasure, for my dream to be realized, in my living years."