P.E.I. human rights discrimination hearing wraps up
Official asked why disability program "willy-nilly" excludes people with mental illness
The province called its witnesses today in the final day of a Human Rights Commission hearing in Charlottetown.
Millie King alleges the provincial government is discriminating against her 24-year-old daughter, who has schizophrenia. King was denied help for her daughter through the province's disability support program — help she said was needed to pay for supported housing, where she could have some help and supervision.
Friday, the panel of three human rights commissioners heard again that the program isn't available for people with mental illnesses, only those with physical or intellectual disabilities.
Bob Creed, a former head of provincial social programs, testified that people think the program is "income replacement," but it's not.
It can help Islanders with disabilities pay for things like a wheelchair or hearing aids, he told the panel. He said people with mental illness can access different services through the mental health association.
Panel member George Lyle asked Creed why the program "willy-nilly" excludes people with mental illness. Creed replied the province believes people can recover from mental illness, and need programs tailored to that belief.
The current director of social programs, Rhea Jenkins, also told the panel, social assistance is a better fit for King's daughter.
The coordinator of the disability support program, Ann Drake, testified that King's daughter was offered employment and vocational supports, including job coaching or help writing her resume.
Jenkins confirmed the province had intended, at some point, to add a second phase to the program that would help Islanders with mental illness, but that has never come to fruition.
Major improvements have been made in the way the province supports Islanders with mental illnesses, Jenkins added, but those do not fall under the disability support program.
They also made every attempt to help connect Millie King's daughter with help through the mental health association, she and other officials told the panel.
The commissioners agreed to briefly close the hearing to the media and the public while a psychiatrist for Millie King's daughter testified Friday on the details of her schizophrenia.
The three-day hearing has now wrapped up. The panel's decision could be months away.
With files from Patrick Faller.