BY: Irene Newington, The Community Press
DATE: September 22, 2004

There are currently over 1,000 people still living in institutions across Ontario but that is soon to change as Minister Sandra Pupatello’s commitment is to phase out the three remaining developmental service institutions by 2009.
Community Living Campbellford/Brighton Executive Chris Grayson calls the September 9 announcement “great news” for the more than 1,000 people who currently reside at the Southwestern in Bleinham, Huronia in Orillia and Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls. “People will now be able to choose where they live, and they’ll have the opportunity to experience life in the community.”

On September 13 Jason Rae president and self advocate for Community Living Brighton welcomed the announcement and thanked the minister for listening to Community Living agencies and closing institutions.
Since the beginning of 1987, 13 of Ontario’s 16 institutions have closed and have given 6,000 people opportunity to live within their communities. Grayson estimates that a possible 30 or more may choose to return to the four-county area when the institutions close.

“It’s fair to say that we will be entering into a planning process with the government to successfully support people’s return to their communities. It’s our goal to ensure opportunities for informed choices are part of the process,” says Grayson.Minister Pupatello has announced that she will also commit $70-million to create new places for people to live in communities throughout Ontario.

A further financial commitment of $40-million was also announced on Thursday, September 9. This will be a part of a comprehensive policy and planning initiative that will be guided by a recently formed “Developmental Services Partnership Table.” Keith Powell, Executive Director, will represent Community Living at the table.
The process to close all institutions began in 1987 when former Minister John Sweeney spread a document known as “Challenge and opportunities.” It was a process to close all 18 institutions, which had housed over 7,000 individuals. Picton, Cobourg, Aurora were some of the communities that had these institutions.

The community Living/Campbellford Brighton associations support an average of 268 people to move home. However, in 2000, no one has left and 50 people have died in institutions since. “We are delighted that the era of housing people in segregated institutions is coming to an end in Ontario,” says Keith Powell, executive Director of Community Living Ontario. He went on to state that “we are proud that Ontario now joins a growing number of jurisdictions in Canada to making this positive step.”

The Social Service Sector has seen change and continues to evolve by offering people and families with developmental disabilities the freedom of choice. “Our society has changed, families’ expectations have changed and we have to change too. We need a comprehensive plan for the future, that will lead us for the next 25 years and beyond,” says Pupatello.

Donald Parent of Wallace, Ontario, knows what it is live to live in an institution. He once lived in three of them. He is overjoyed with the news that the remaining institutions will be closed. “My friends, those I left behind, will now be out and be able to experience freedom and all that the outside world has to offer.”

It is with the passion of agencies like community Living Campbellford/Brighton that promote social inclusion and choice for people who have intellectual disabilities. Established in 1960, it now employees 70 staff and serves 100 people with intellectual disabilities in the communities of Campbellford, Brighton, Colborne, Hastings, Havelock, Norwood and Warkworth. Once again they were awarded a second consecutive Accreditation with Distinction and received the Donner Canadian Foundation Award for the Excellence in the delivery of Social Services for their leadership and determination to educate others and to provide advocacy for persons with intellectual disabilities.