Ontario doctor says addicts use transit benefits for crack

An Ottawa doctor who specializes in addictions says Ontario is giving addicts money intended for bus passes, but it is instead used to buy crack cocaine.

Ottawa addictions specialist concerned about lack of oversight on ODSP funds earmarked for transit

Dr. Mark Ujjainwalla of Recovery Ottawa is concerned Ontario is giving addicts money intended for bus passes that is instead used to buy crack cocaine. (CBC)

The lack of oversight in an Ontario support program is allowing addicts to spend money intended for bus passes on drugs, according to an Ottawa addictions specialist. 

Since addiction is classified a disease, many drug addicts receive assistance under the Ontario Disability Support Program, including benefits to help pay for public transport.

But Dr. Mark Ujjainwalla of Recovery Ottawa is concerned ODSP is handing out cheques earmarked for transit without making sure that's how the money is spent. The cost of a bus pass in Ottawa is about the same as 10 points of crack cocaine.  

"What these guys all do is, they get a cheque once a month for a bus pass, but they take the cash and they buy crack. So they're in here telling me they don't have a bus pass," he said.

Ujjainwalla said he's reached out to the Ministry of Community and Social Services to no avail.

Some crack cocaine addicts who are on the Ontario Disability Support Program are using public transit funds to fuel their habit, Ujjainwalla says.
"OK, they need a bus pass. Why don't you make sure they get that bus pass with their picture on it, and make sure they get that bus pass because it's important for them to get to meetings and appointments," he said. "Without it, they're going to do more drugs."

A ministry spokesperson said each ODSP office has discretion on how to dole out funds for transport. The Ottawa office has decided to give its clients the money directly to let them buy a bus pass.

The ministry said it can also set up "an alternative arrangement" for clients who are in need of public transport, but did not say what that arrangement would be or whether that's ever happened.

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