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Community living crisis recognized

Heather McPherson feels some relief that the community living crisis in B.C. is being acknowledged by politicians.
Heather McPherson looks on as grandson Brent displays a picture he drew of the friends he misses in his day program



Abbotsford News

Heather McPherson feels some relief that the community living crisis in B.C. is being acknowledged by politicians.

Now the Abbotsford grandma, who raises her 20-year-old grandson with fetal alcohol syndrome, wants to see some action.

McPherson is among the hundreds of families across the province who have been impacted by issues with Community Living BC (CLBC), which provides program funding for adults with developmental delays.

Families have said services for their children are drastically reduced when they reach the age of 19 and fall under CLBC guidelines, rather than the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

In McPherson’s case, her grandson, Brent, went from attending a day program five times a week to just twice.

McPherson, 69, said the additional days Brent is now at home are stressful for the two of them. Brent enjoys the structure of a program where he can socialize with others, but at home he often wanders around, not knowing how to occupy his time.

“He looks at his calendar, waiting for Wednesday and Friday. He wishes he could go every day.”

McPherson must keep a watchful eye on him, and cannot leave him on his own. She is hopeful that changes will be made with the announcement last Friday that the CLBC board of directors had fired CEO Rick Mowles.

As well, there has been government acknowledgment of the issues, with Liberal MLA Randy Hawes (Abbotsford-Mission) joining opposition calls for an overhaul of services.

NDP MLAs called in the legislature Monday for an outside review of CLBC. Although Hawes rejected the NDP motion as “too simplistic,” he said his constituents need more help than they are getting.

“There are people who have looked after their kids forever, and they’re aging out,” Hawes told reporters after an emotional debate in the legislature. “They’re 80 years old with 50- and 60-year-old children who need to have some service, and we never knew they existed.”

CLBC has been phasing out some group homes as facilities and residents have aged, moving to home-share arrangements with contracted caregivers.

During legislature debate, Hawes described one family whose developmentally disabled son grew to more than six feet tall and became violent as he reached his 20s. He was put in a home-share but that lasted only two weeks.

“It was a fight, a real hard fight, to find a space for him,” Hawes said. “Definitely, he has to be in a group home.”

Surrey-Panorama MLA Stephanie Cadieux was appointed social development minister in September, replacing Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy in the ministry responsible for CLBC.

Cadieux said Monday she supports the CLBC board’s decision to make changes, and she does not agree with the NDP’s demand for an outside review of the agency’s operation.

“That’s my job as minister, to dig in and see what’s going on,” Cadieux said. “I’m doing that.”

In question period, NDP MLAs continued to hammer the government over the closure of 65 group homes and the growing wait list for CLBC services.

Hawes described one constituent, a man in his 70s with a developmentally disabled son in his 50s.

His wife now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and the man told Hawes his three days of respite care are no longer enough.