MEDICINE HAT, AB – The provincial government is optimistic that a new crisis line will help prevent vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.
In the coming weeks, the province will be launching a hot line for people with mental handicaps experiencing neglect or abuse.
It will be run by trained department staff who will reportedly track and follow up with every call their receive.
The hot line was one of 13 recommendations to come out of last year’s fatality inquiry of Betty Anne Gagnon, a mentally handicapped woman who died in 2009 in Sherwood Park.
It was found the 48-year-old was confined to a cage, a dog run, and an abandoned school bus by her sister and brother-in-law before she suffered a fatal head injury.
Judge Michelle Collinson determined that there were many chances for authorities or other groups to intervene in Gagnon’s case.
In Medicine Hat, the CORE Association helps provide employment, housing, and other supports to those struggling with developmental disabilities in the city.
Executive Director Rita Bessant said unfortunately they have seen cases of abuse and neglect.
“We have in the past received complaints, concerns from clients and we are obligated to report that to PDD, which we do,” said Bessant. “There [are] good resources available.”
CHAT News reached out to Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir on Monday but he was unavailable for an interview.
However, Sabir did provide the following statement.
“We have heard from Albertans on the need for a coordinated resource to access when they have concerns about the abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person. That’s why we are launching a new phone line to ensure Albertans have a place to get the help they need. Staff will be specially trained to support Albertans, track and follow up on every call. We will share more details when the phone line launches in the coming weeks.”
The province is currently in the midst of a full-scale review of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program, which was announced back in January.
More than 12,000 Albertans receive some form of assistance through the PDD program, with almost half being under 35 years old.
Since the review began, the province said they’ve increased their funding by $150 million for enhanced training and overall access to the program.
Bessant added she would like to see more funding allocated to front-line staff dealing with this vulnerable group on a daily basis.
“My hope for the outcome of this is that there will be a re-distribution of resources and I know there is no financial surveys being done,” she said. “But, that would be my hope.”
Work on the vulnerable persons hot line is entering its final stages and is expected to be launched by the province in the next few weeks.
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