Family of people with developmental disabilities fighting cuts to program

Province is cutting a program where facilitators help people with developmental disabilities improve their lives.

$3.1M program to end April 1

Families with members who have developmental disabilities are mobilizing to fight cuts to a provincial program they depend on. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

Family members of people who have developmental disablities are mobilizing to fight a Ford government cut to a service that helps their loved ones lead a normal life.

"I was at home. I felt like there was nothing that I could do, I was playing video games in the basement," said 20 year-old Corbin Szymczak.

Szymczak has obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Asperger syndrome, Tourette syndrome and a learning disability.

But after meeting with an independent facilitator organized through the Windsor-Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports, Szymczak is now attending St. Clair College to be a video game designer — something he always dreamed of.

Tina Szymczak and her son Corbin are joining the fight to save a facilitator program that helps people with developmental disabilities. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

"It's a way to create a solid, stable life for myself that I can survive on," said Szymczak.

Just before Christmas, about 100 families that depend on the service learned the province will be cutting $3.1 million in funding on April 1.

The program funds three facilitators in the Windsor area at a cost of $296,000.

The facilitators meet with people with developmental disabilities to look for ways they can connect with other family members for support and forge a path toward a sustainable, satisfying and independent life.

"I think it's going to be devastating for our community," said Corbin's mother, Tina. "People with disabilities, they deserve to have a life in the community."

Putting pressure on the government

The organization held an action meeting at the Ambassador Golf Club on Thursday night. 

Several families got together to write letters to MPPs, create videos to tell their stories and mobilize a campaign to fight the cuts.

Families wrote letters and created videos at the meeting to share their stories about why they want funding for the program to stay. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

"There is no other support like this," said Michelle Friesen, executive director of the Windsor-Essex Family Network.

"We thought this was a great opportunity tonight, to have them jot down things that they want."

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky was there to urge the families to put pressure on the government to continue the program.

"We're talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our community and communities across the province," said Gretzky.

Gretzky said the government has offered no explanation as to why the program is being cut.


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is a video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print. He has received a number of awards including an RTDNA regional TV news award and a New York Festivals honourable mention.


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