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‘Get him out of the hospital’: Mother of Oshawa man with autism pushing for long-term care for her son

A 22-year-old man from Oshawa, Ont., has been spending his nights at his local hospital for months as he sits on a waitlist for long-term housing. As Jasmine Pazzano explains, he's one of more than 15,000 Ontarians who are also waiting for care.

An Oshawa, Ont., man is in “crisis,” as he has had no choice but to stay in a hospital bed for months, his mother says, while he sits on a waitlist for long-term housing.

For the past nine months, Damion Linklater has been sleeping at Lakeridge Health, and Tammy Linklater is now calling on the provincial government to provide long-term care for her son with autism.

“I’m asking for somebody to take notice and to get him out of the hospital,” said Linklater, whose son is 22 years old. “Damion is in the hospital, taking up a bed that other people in crisis could be using while he’s waiting on this list.”

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Linklater says he has been on a Developmental Services Ontario waitlist for more than two years, and staying at the Oshawa hospital has been the only solution until he gets pulled off the list and into long-term housing.

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“I want a normal life and friends,” said Damion.

His mother adds that he lives at home during the day, as she can watch over him, but the reason he sleeps at the hospital is he needs overnight supervision. He can be a safety risk to his family, she says, as he has threatened to burn down her Oshawa home while she and her 17-year-old daughter Kiara are asleep. He also has behavioural issues and depression.

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“When he has one of his meltdowns, he can become physically aggressive, and he has become physically aggressive,” she said. “We’ve had police interference.”

He was admitted to the hospital, Linklater says, in February after he had one of his “meltdowns,” and he has been staying there since, as “for safety reasons, it’s better for him to be there” while he waits for government support.

When Global News emailed the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, asking why Linklater is still on the waitlist, it said there is a province-wide process to help those in “urgent situations.” These include, it says, a situation in which patients are in immediate risk of losing their housing.

“It’s unfortunate that… the government doesn’t view that as a crisis,” said Sara Labelle of the Durham Health Coalition, referring to Linklater’s circumstances. “They are having to utilize a hospital bed to get the services that Damion requires, and these are all services that could be easily provided in a better situation if they actually funded and provided the supportive housing that is needed.”

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Global News emailed Lakeridge Health, asking if there are other patients who are staying at the hospital because they’re also waiting for long-term housing, but it said it could not comment out of respect to patient privacy.

But, the province told Global News its most recent numbers show that Damion is one of more than 15,000 other adults with developmental disabilities on the residential-services waitlist. It adds there is no first-come, first-serve system for developmental services — the people it determines are in the most need for care are prioritized for available resources.

In hopes of pushing the province to get her son off the waitlist, and to raise awareness of how many others are waiting for the same care, Linklater started a petition and it has garnered more than 1,100 signatures.

She says she wants the government to find a solution for her family now.

“My situation is extremely dire,” she said. “The longer Damion is in the hospital, the more depressed he becomes.”