Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The New Brunswick Association for Community Living Centre of Excellence for Children and Youth with Complex Needs

I have participated in the current "consultation" process being conducted by Bernard Richard,  New Brunswick's highly, and justly,  respected Ombudsman and Youth Advocate purportedly aimed at developing recommendations for a centre of excellence for youth at risk and youth with complex needs. I was very upset to hear this good gentleman make remarks at the outset of his comments which appeared to rule out any type  of  recommendation of a   residential care facility for youths with complex needs. There was no recognition in his remarks of the reality faced by many youth and adults with severe developmental disorders and limitations who actually require residential care and treatment on a prolonged or permanent basis.   Unfortunately  Mr. Richard's remarks reflected the non evidence based  NBACL community inclusion philosophy whose adherents have steadfastly opposed evidence based treatment, education and residential care for children, youth and adults with autism disorders.

There was no recognition in Mr. Richard's remarks  of the need for permanent care facilities even though the evidence of such a need is living, and has been living for years, in hospital facilities of various types in Campbellton and  Saint John, New Brunswick. Some of this evidence, some of these people, including some with autism disorders, have even been exported out of the country to Bangor Maine.

Parents of such individuals do not WANT their youth and adult children to live in hospitals but there has been no decent, modernized, alternative residential care and treatment facility in New Brunswick. That brutal reality does not appear to be recognized in the current review by Mr. Richard who at a gathering last night, once again, repeated the cliches and feel good buzz words of the community living movement. 

The event last night was very much like a high school football rally with young people wearing DOTS T-shirts    playing music and encouraging those present to throw symbolic balls of rolled up paper into recycling boxes. Mr. Richard addressed the rally and talked about the bad old days of the Roberts facility, closed now for many years, which still dominates the thinking of those, including Mr. Richard, who subscribe to New Brunswick's failed community inclusion model. Mr. Richard, like NBACL President Clarence Box, who joined the discussion table to which I was assigned during the previous consultations, talked about moving past "bricks and mortar" concepts in his recommendations for a new Centre for Youths with Complex Needs.   

I don't know what kind of centre will be recommended that will not include bricks and mortars. The buildings in which Mr. Richard's office is located, the several buildings owned by the NBACL in NB are "bricks and mortar".  People need facilities to do many things ... to live, to work in their offices, to educate children...  to provide treatment ... and to provide a place in which to reside and receive treatment, in some cases permanently,  for some youth and adults with complex needs. The community inclusion model has prevented modernized habitable versions of such facilities from being developed in NB and it has simply ignored those who don't fit their belief based system and have had to be hospitalized or exported. 

It is the very feel good community living philosophy embraced by Mr. Richard which has caused the problem here in NB.  Mr. Richard spoke at the consultation meeting and again last night about how impressed he was with the "vision" of one of his expert advisers a gentleman from Ontario with no prior connection I am aware of to New Brunswick. What evidence the gentleman's vision is based on is beyond me to say. I suppose though  that visions, and philosophies,  do not require an evidence basis.

It is a problem Mr. Richard now appears poised to try and fix by applying more of the same failed philosophy that caused the problem in the first place.  I am sure Mr. Richard will recommend a visionary concept to serve NB's youth with complex needs. I am sure Mr. Richard, Mr. Clarence Box,  community living icon  Gordon Porter, and other subscribers to the community inclusion philosophy, will feel good about that vision.  I am happy for them. 

I am not at all sure though, with great respect, that Mr. Richard will recommend anything which really addresses some of the most important needs of youth with complex needs ... the need for decent, modernized and evidence based  residential care and treatment. 

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