Nova Scotia

Deputy minister defends slow pace of program changes for people with disabilities

Lynn Hartwell, the deputy minister of Community Services, testified at a human rights hearing Thursday that respect for clients and concern for their safety have slowed the pace of change.

Community Services deputy minister testifies at human rights hearing about institutionalized care

Lynn Hartwell, deputy minister of Community Services, testified Thursday at a human rights hearing on institutionalized care. (CBC)

A public servant charged with reforming Nova Scotia's programs for people with disabilities defended the pace of change today at a human rights hearing in Halifax.

Lynn Hartwell, the deputy minister of the Department of Community Services, testified that slowdowns in a 10-year plan are partly because civil servants must ensure clients' wishes are respected and their safety ensured.

Two people with intellectual disabilities, Beth MacLean and Joseph Delaney, have alleged Community Services violated the Human Rights Act by forcing them to remain at the Emerald Hall psychiatric ward in Halifax for more than a decade, even though they had been medically discharged.

The human rights complaint, laid in 2014, argued they should have been provided housing in a small-options home.

Small-options homes are small housing units, usually with three or four residents, where people with intellectual and other disabilities get day-to-day support to allow them to live in their community.

Hartwell says since 2013 — when a "roadmap" to change the system was set up — the department has moved about 120 people from larger facilities to other options in the community where they have more control of their day-to-day lives.

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