P.E.I. government revamps supports for people living with disabilities

The P.E.I. government is rolling out more assistance for those living with disabilities, with a first order of business to change the name of the program from Disability Support Program to AccessAbility Supports.

Mental health conditions added to the program

Tina Mundy, minister of Family and Human Services, made the announcement Thursday. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

The P.E.I. government is rolling out more assistance for those living with disabilities.

The first order of business was to change the name of the program, from Disability Support Program to  AccessAbility Supports.

"If you look at the literature for the new program, it all starts with my supports … as opposed to what government can give you," said Executive Director Marcia Carroll.

"That's a shift in the paradigm in how you deliver services." 

Mental health added 

One of the biggest changes is that those living with a disabling mental illness will now be eligible for assistance.

"When the province many years ago developed this program, it was always part of a phase two that never happened. We as a government made it a priority when we were reviewing all our programs and services." explained Tina Mundy, Minister of Family and Human Services.

The news was welcomed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Amanda Brazil, Director of Programs and Policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association, says the organisation has been fighting for the change for years. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

"We have been advocating for a number of years," said Amanda Brazil, Director of Programs and Policy. 

"It can be a great struggle. Not everybody who has a mental illness will become disabled, but when it becomes disabling they need those supports just like anybody else with any other type of disability."

New tools for staff 

All assessments will be done on an individual basis with a case worker, who will use a new assessment tool to better understand how the disability affects the person's daily living, and then develop a personalized support plan. 

There will be new positions added too — community connectors to focus on independence and a supports coordinator who will assist people to navigate the available services. 

That navigation will be made easier with a single point of contact at a toll-free number. 

Expanding existing services 

The $3.6 million earmarked for the project includes expansion of some existing services, such as job and skills training. 

And a huge win for Carroll was the increase in the amount allowed for modifications to a person's home or vehicle.  For home renovations, individuals could qualify for $10,000 every 10 years, and $6,000 every eight years for vehicle modifications.

That's compared to the previous maximum of  $2,000 in a lifetime, for both programs.

Marcia Carroll, executive director of the PEI Council of People with Disabilities, is very happy with the changes.

"Two thousand dollars to renovate your home over your whole lifetime is not a realistic depiction of a lifestyle, and so that increase and that it happens in increments is actually honouring that a person's disability changes as they age. It may get worse, it may get better but it's a cycle," Carroll said.

The changes are effective July 16 and those who are currently on disability support will automatically be enrolled in the new program.

More P.E.I. news 

About the Author

Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a video journalist in P.E.I. She has also worked for CBC N.L.