P.E.I.'s disability support program has been expanded to include help for mental health problems, as the province continues to wait for a decision on a related Human Rights Commission case.
The expanded program will provide a single entry point for assistance for Islanders with disabilities, both physical and mental.
"Now persons with mental health illness will also be able to access the disability support program which they weren't in the past," said Family and Human Services Minster Tina Mundy.
Eligibility will be based on functional needs rather than a diagnosis, and Islanders who receive more than one service will have a single case worker once they are assessed.
A functional assessment will determine how an individual's disability impacts their daily life. Supports provided could include assistive devices, respite care, and employment support. The single entry point will also make it easier for Islanders to access all the services available.
Not connected to human rights case
Mundy said the announcement is not connected to a case last spring where the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission ruled the province had discriminated against a 24-year-old woman with schizophrenia by not providing disability support services.
The department started working on this plan when she became minister in January 2016, she said.
"It was something that was always planned," said Mundy, saying the idea goes back to the founding of the program in 2001.
"There was always the plan to take a look at how we could include mental health under the disability support program."
The provincial government is currently seeking a judicial review of an order by the commission for the government to stop excluding people with mental illness from the disability program. Premier Wade MacLauchlan has said the review is about jurisdiction, and not whether the people with mental illness should be included.
New supports ready for 2018
While the announcement of the change was made Thursday, the program is not ready.
Mundy said her staff will require training in order to do functional assessments of people with mental health disabilities.
The program should be ready for 2018.
The province is still waiting for a decision on the judicial review of the Human Rights Commission order.
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