After a decade, N.S. disability rights advocate finally allowed to move out of nursing home

Vicky Levack has been beaming ever since she found out she will move into an apartment in mid-November. She spent her twenties living in a Halifax nursing home.  (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)
Vicky Levack has been beaming ever since she found out she will move into an apartment in mid-November. She spent her twenties living in a Halifax nursing home. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)

Vicky Levack couldn't believe it when she found out she was finally moving out of her nursing home.

"There's things I can't say.... because you'll have to bleep it, but trust me they were all very excited things that would have to be bleeped," she said.

Levack, 31, has cerebral palsy and has been living in Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax for a decade. When she moved in, she was told it would be like living in a dorm for people with disabilities.

"I was sold a bill of goods that wasn't true," Levack said. "Initially, I was on a floor with a lot of people with dementia and other illnesses like that. As a result, I was physically assaulted by people who didn't know what they were doing."

Levack spent her twenties living in a room with a hospital bed. She had to eat meals at set times. She stopped inviting people over because she was embarrassed when there were screams and shouting from other residents in the hall.

Levack also couldn't offer guests a place to sit in her room.

"Having my niece come visit – she's five now – but I think it scared her a little bit."

Brian MacKay/CBC
Brian MacKay/CBC

Levack's experience inspired her to become a vocal advocate. She spent years working with the disability rights coalition in Nova Scotia, begging the provincial government to do more for young adults with disabilities.

Their fight with the province ended up in a lawsuit – with Nova Scotia's top court ruling the province discriminated against people with disabilities.

Finally, on Tuesday, Levack got the call she's been waiting for. She'll be among the first four people to take part in a pilot program from the province, allowing her to move into an apartment for the first time in her adult life.

"I will no longer have nurses breathing down my neck. Not that they do so intentionally, but there's always somebody around and I like it when I have my own space."

Nova Scotia's department of community services said in a statement that it is spending $3.5 million dollars in this fiscal year to kick start the program. That will allow 25 young adults with disabilities to move into apartments, and receive the support services they need.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Levack is among the first four who will move in mid-November. She says she will have a roommate who is also in the program, and they will have access to 24-hour nursing support.

Community services says it is working with the department of seniors and long–term care to operate the pilot.

It says over the next three years, another 175 young people will be able to move out on their own.

Levack says she's fortunate that she's among the first, but she won't stop her advocacy until everyone with disabilities who wants to live independently has the option.

"There are literally 300 young adults across this province who are in the exact same boat I have been in for 10 years," she said.

"A lot of people have died before they had a chance to live in the community and experience full citizenship. So my job is not done."

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