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HomeHealth and LifestyleTransitional support program expanding into Kawartha Lakes

Transitional support program expanding into Kawartha Lakes

By Jamie Steel

KAWARTHA LAKES- A transitional support program aimed at helping people with cognitive impairments receive appropriate assistance, while reducing poverty, is expanding into Kawartha Lakes.

The program, which first launched in Durham in 2009 before expanding into Peterborough last year, will now be available to residents in Kawartha Lakes, as well as Northumberland and Haliburton, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. It is administered by the Brain Injury Association of Peterborough Region and is expected to reduce poverty experienced by those living with cognitive disabilities by helping those individuals receive appropriate social assistance through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), rather than remaining reliant on Ontario Works.“This program has made a significant impact in the lives of people with a cognitive disability,” said Jeff Chartier, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Durham.

When attempting to access medical services, the individuals served by the transitional support program often face barriers such as being able to communicate with medical staff, obtaining records, the inability to advocate for their own health, lack of health card or identification and literacy, memory and comprehension issues. This initiative works to minimize those barriers while supporting the people who require extensive assistance.

A three-year Ontario Trillium Foundation Grow Grant worth $247,000 made the expansion possible. With that funding, the Association hopes to learn whether the needs in Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Northumberland and Peterborough are consistent with the needs in Durham Region and whether the population warrants a full-time staff member.

The organization will also establish a collaborative group to determine community interest, hold community consultations to introduce the initiative, work with individuals to complete their income support applications, and develop a service model and long-term strategy for Peterborough and the surrounding communities.“By no means is this a victory lap,” said Chartier.“This is the first step.”

During the announcement about the expansion, staff from the Brain Injury Association presented a case study about a woman from Peterborough.The individual went more than 20 years without a family doctor and never received an official diagnosis for her condition. She had attempted to apply ODSP twice and was denied both times. Staff say the woman had difficulty interacting with healthcare workers and Ontario Works caseworkers. Through the transitional support program, the individual was connected to a family doctor and specialist. Furthermore, a support letter was created with the ODSP application and the assistance was granted right away.

Jeff Leal, Member of Provincial Parliament for Peterborough, noted at the announcement that this expansion will build on the foundation that has already been put in place.
According to Brain Injury Association staff, the program in Durham has resulted in improved overall health, reduced Ontario Works cost, reduced dependency on emergency medical and social services, improved access to alternative income and decreased levels of incarceration, anxiety and depression.

The first five-year investment has saved the Region of Durham approximately $917,259 per year by supporting people in accessing the appropriate income. “This is along with undeterminable savings in areas of health, legal, correctional and court services, and housing,” reads the presentation from the Brain Injury Association.“As frontline health providers, we see poverty in Ontario as a public health crisis.”

According to the Association, more than 50 per cent of Toronto’s homeless population has a brain injury and 70 per cent of homeless people experienced their injury prior to being homeless. By helping individuals connect with appropriate assistance, the Brain Injury Association hopes to decrease the level of poverty experienced by those with cognitive disabilities while also reducing the high cost of poverty.

For more information about the transitional support program, contact the Brain Injury Association of Peterborough Region by calling 705-741-1172 or emailing [email protected]. More information about the Association is available at www.biapr.ca.


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