Disability rights group bemoans 'glacial' progress on community-based care

·3 min read
Vicky Levack, who has cerebral palsy, says she would prefer to be supported living in the community rather than a nursing home. (Vicky Levack - image credit)
Vicky Levack, who has cerebral palsy, says she would prefer to be supported living in the community rather than a nursing home. (Vicky Levack - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government is being accused of pushing its plans to transform services for people with disabilities to the back burner.

The Disability Rights Coalition says the 2013 roadmap in which the province committed over 10 years to more community-based services rather than institutional care has stalled.

In its call-to-action report released Monday, the coalition said government progress has been "glacial" at providing more independent living options for people with disabilities.

The number of people living in facilities funded by the provincial Department of Community Services has dropped from about 1,100 in 2013 to around 900 today, according to the report. That's a smaller decrease than disability advocates had been hoping for at this stage.

"I don't think it's getting much better," said Vicky Levack, who has cerebral palsy and lives in a nursing home in Halifax. "The government said they were going to implement the roadmap to inclusion by 2023. The way things stand right now, we're not going to be fully inclusive by then."

A lot of my care needs are not medical - Vicky Levack

Levack, 30, would prefer to live in the community in an apartment and receive support there, but said she has been told her needs are too complex.

She said her current living situation is like a hospital setting, and it is affecting her mental health with few people to talk to.

"It's not ideal for me because this is basically a medical facility and a lot of my care needs are not medical. I don't need to be watched for medical purposes," she said.

The coalition is also drawing attention to the number of people on the province's disability support program waiting list. The coalition's data shows a more than 74 per cent increase from 1,099 in 2014 to 1,915 in 2021.

"People were horrified at the size of the wait-list in 2013 and now we find ourselves in even more troubling circumstances," said Claire McNeil, a lawyer with the Disability Rights Coalition.

McNeil is pressing for immediate action to see changes she expected by 2023.

"The reason that we had a roadmap in 2013 was both people in and out of government saw things as being at a crisis point," McNeil said. "We have 30 months left and this wait-list and the situation for people with disabilities who want to live in the community could be resolved tomorrow if there was a commitment."

Craig Paisley/CBC
Craig Paisley/CBC

Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services did not provide an interview about the issue but sent an emailed statement to CBC News reiterating its commitment to phasing out adult residential centres and regional rehabilitation centres over time.

The statement said the department is taking concrete steps to ensure disabled Nova Scotians have more opportunity to live in their communities and participate in employment and volunteer work. The statement outlined the ministry's work with families as it develops individualized plans to support transitions to community-based living.

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