Saturday, January 13, 2007

Time for government to obey law and help disabled

VICTORIA - Surely the government will now give up its wrongheaded legal fight to deny help to people whose lives will be utterly wrecked without it.
Two courts have said the government is breaking its own law by denying needed help to damaged people based on an arbitrary IQ standard.
The people - usually youths turning 19 - can have emotional and mental problems, fetal alcohol disorders, a whole load of issues, even ones that makes them a risk to the community. The government says those don't matter.
If the damaged person scores 70-plus on an IQ test then the government, through Community Living BC, cuts off help.
Neil Fahlman turned out to be the perfect test case to challenge the government's arbitrary action.
Fahlman is a huge, strong young man with lots of problems - fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder and an autism variant. As a result he often makes terrible decisions and acts impulsively. He - like a lot of people with fetal alcohol disorders - doesn't see the link between action and consequences, a disastrous disability.
Fahlman has had help all his life. His adoptive mother, a lawyer with the government here, worked hard to line up support and the children and families ministry came through.
But by the time he was 15, Fahlman was too volatile and strong for Gow and her
husband to manage. Foster homes couldn't handle his behaviour.
Then, a solution. Fahlman started living by himself in a small cabin on Vancouver Island. Community Living B.C. provided one-on-one support every day for seven hours to help him and make sure things went well.
It was expensive, about $77,000 a year. But the alternatives were all more costly or dangerous. It was the best way to handle a tough problem.
But Fahlman was going to turn 19. And because his IQ was 79, government policy said he would be cut off support on his birthday.
Community Living BC ordered a review to see if the teen qualified for support as an adult.
"Without the supports now in place Neil would be extremely vulnerable to his own aggressiveness and impulsivity," the psychologist appointed by the agency found. "He could do significant harm to himself and the community."
But Community Living BC, following the ministry's policy lead, said Fahlman's 79 IQ -placing him in the bottom 10 per cent of the population - is over the 70 cutoff. Support denied.
Gow appealed and ended up in B.C. Supreme Court, which found the government's arbitrary denial of help to Fahlman and thousands of others is wrong.
The Community Living BC legislation is clear, the court noted. It is to "promote equitable access to community living support" and "assist adults with developmental disabilities to achieve maximum independence and live full lives in their communities."
The law doesn't say it can deny support to people based on arbitrary standards.
If government wants to set those kinds of rules, it needs to amend the legislation or pass a cabinet order.
Instead, government took the fight to deny aid to the B.C. Court of Appeal - and lost again.
The three justices agreed the legislation doesn't allow the use of IQ to deny services to people who need them. They noted Liberal ministers Gordon Hogg and Linda Reid had both made comments in the legislature that suggested the cutoff was never contemplated when the law was passed.
Fahlman is one among many denied help because of the IQ standard. In too many cases the result has been damaged, lost and wasted lives. The people unable to cope without help have ended up in jail, hospital or on the streets.
All that could have been avoided, in many cases with a just a small amount of support - help with housing, with managing money, with life.
Children and Families Minister Tom Christensen said he's considering the government's next steps.
But the right decision is simple. Obey the law. Increase Community Living BC's budget so it can provide the needed help.
Keeping these people from disaster makes obvious moral and economic sense.
There's no excuse for more stalling.
Footnote: Another aspect of support for people turning 19 is likely to be contentious this year. Children in government care have been effectively pushed out on their own at 19, ready or not - often not. New Child and Youth
Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond - like her predecessor Jane Morley - will likely have harsh words for the failure to give the kids a fair chance in starting adult life.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where do you find time to dig up all these negative stories. Hey, the one that I would like to hear more about is how my income taxes have been reduced by the Campbell Liberals, and if they funded all the sob stories you write about, guess what. Why should I give up a holiday to Disneyland to take care of all the Neil Fahlmans out there? Get a job!!!!

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Dawn Steele said...

Good points, Paul. Funding supports that help individuals with developmental challenges to achieve their full potential as successful citizens is not just our moral responsibility as civilized human beings, it also makes sense from a purely economic perspective.

Without such support, they pose an enormous burden to health, justice and social services (think of the hundreds of millions poured into the Downtown East Side alone). And then think of the enormous benefits to society from the billions we invest in public education to help young people achieve their potential, thereby building our economy. The costs of lost productivity of individuals who could very well be contributing to our overall GDP and maybe even paying taxes are significant.

Heck, such an investment might earn sufficient returns as to fund the tax break that Anon wants to go to Disneyland, AND to keep Sesame Access Systems in business for years!

Stephen said...

Anon asks, "Why should I give up a holiday to Disneyland to take care of all the Neil Fahlmans out there."

Because, Anon, but for circumstance, you could be Neil Fahlman. Think about that.

Anonymous said...

I assumed Anon was being ironic, is there even a whisp of chance it was a serious reply????

Anonymous said...

One hopes the first poster never has to fight for his or her kids. This governemtn never seems short of money for things that benefit only a few. The courts have spoken Gordo pay up. As for income taxes being lowered, before you start telling us how great the curts were, start adding up the increased costs of so many government services.

Stephen said...

I assumed it was serious, but I guess it could be ironic. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Ironic or not the first poster's sentiments obviously represent those of a majority of British Columbians. Who else gave the Campbell Liberals two majorities so far, and appear likely to repeat the favour? So whether you like it or not the sad truth is we could and would be bribed with a promise of a few more take home dollars, and devil take the hindmost. Who can say they didn't see the coming of this Age of Shame and Disgrace that British Columbians are wallowing in? Wow, isn't the economy great!!!!

Anonymous said...

It looks like you guys in BC are living through much of the same that we went through during the Haris years. The economy keeps going up and the homeless become more and more numerous and the streets look worse and worse. It will just keep getting worse too. Can you say bye bye to medicare? Screw the majority of Canadians who support and depend on our medicare system, screw the fact that it makes Canada a better place to live. Apperently our healthcare system, which was built by us for us with our money, is getting in the way of someone else's god-given right to make money at our expense. I can hear the moaning of the Conservatives now, saying I'm just another crazy 'left-wing' type inventing stories to frighten the masses. Thats what they always say. Then you wake up one morning and they're on TV announcing medicare is dead because of whatever reason pops into their head. I suppose the only solution is to hand everything over to the Americans so they can manage it better. Like they do in Guatemala.

Anonymous said...

To poster one, even Milton Friedman, renowned promoter of Laissez Faire Capitalism said it was the responsibility of government to take of those who cannot do so for themselves.

Your moral compass needs some work, as it is defective or missing.

Anonymous said...

As a direct result of lack of support i.e funding, support, counselling, medication etc. Neil Fahlman is now being charged with Soliciting sex from a minor and possession of child pornography. This is not happening to a stranger or someone down the road-No-this is happening to my 15 year old daughter and myself. The reason I bring this up is to bring to light the fact that with these people suffering we suffer as well. I refuse to say that we are victim in this because I was ready to deal with him in my own means. I chose to involve the police and see how the criminal justice system would deal with him in Canada. I did not know in the beginning that Neil had such disorders. It just seems to make a little bit more sense in my head how a person could do such things. I may be wrong in my opinion but I do "almost" feel bad for him. Not bad enough to change my mind on the severity of his charges though.

paul said...

Most recent anon. Could you email me at willcocks@gmail.com? I'd like to know more. And best wishes in dealing with what must be a challenging time.
Paul

Anonymous said...

The things you learn about family when you decide to use google...holy f!@k