April 4, 2019 1:13 pm
Updated: April 4, 2019 5:44 pm

Get people with disabilities out of institutions, rights groups tell Nova Scotia

WATCH: Disability rights groups say living options for Nova Scotians who require care are limited, and despite promises of change, little has been done. Jeremy Keefe reports

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Disability rights advocates are calling for Nova Scotia to commit to spending the money needed to get people out of institutions and into the community.

Jen Powley, who is co-president of a group called No More Warehousing, said she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 15, and doesn’t want the disease to define her life.

“For the last decade I have required 24/7 supports,” she told a news conference Thursday at the provincial legislature.

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Powley, 41, said her parents in Alberta have taken steps such as selling off farmland in order to provide her with needed care, but they can no longer afford the $100,000 annual bill.

“Now I am faced with going into a nursing home. I am not the only person facing this situation.”

READ MORE: N.S. inquiry finds that hospital violated human rights of people with disabilities

Powley and other advocates called for a legislated, multi-year commitment, adding there’s a systemic failure to live up to past promises to provide proper supports and services in the community.

The advocates said there are an estimated 240 people between the ages of 18 and 60 with physical disabilities in nursing homes, and another 600 living with other disabilities in various kinds of large care facilities.

The groups said more needs to be done to get those people into the community, and they’re asking the Liberal government to live up to a 2013 commitment to clear wait lists for various living options and to remove people from large institutions by 2023.

The call for improvements follows a recent Nova Scotia Human Rights board of inquiry decision that found the needless institutionalization of people with disabilities is harmful and discriminatory.

Barb Horner of the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia said the government’s inaction amounted to a human rights violation for 1,500 people with disabilities who are on the wait list for proper resources and housing options.

“Does this not make it clear that there is a human rights crisis in our province crying out for leadership and updated legislation for the most vulnerable people in our society?” asked Horner.

She said advocates such as herself remain “deeply frustrated and disappointed” with the government’s lack of progress since 2013 and she called a 2017 commitment for eight small options homes “not good enough” and “shameful.”

READ MORE: Woman with intellectual disability details 15-year quest for release from N.S. hospital

As things stand, only two of the eight homes are ready for occupancy.

That number is small compared to what the Community Homes Action Group believes is needed to reach the 2023 goal – 25 new small options homes a year for three years.

Community Services Minister Kelly Regan said the government is working hard to move people out into the community as quickly as it possibly can.

However, Regan said it takes time not only to establish a home, but to make sure it meets people’s needs.

The minister said there are additional monies in the current budget to help young people transition from school to adulthood, for small options homes for children, and to continue the development of the previously promised homes.

“We’ve had the opportunity to learn from other provinces because they were far ahead of us,” Regan said. “Nova Scotia is only doing this now. Other governments did not do this – we are doing it.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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