New bill introduced for continuous support for developmental disability in Ontario

Windsor West MPP has introduced a bill that would ensure no adult with developmental disability is left without supports once they've aged out of receiving support as a child.

‘Autism does not stop at 18,’ says mother of 21-year-old

Mary Beth Rocheleau says she's had to take a large financial cut once her son with autism turned 18. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

There's now a bill urging Ontario to amend the system so kids with developmental disabilities can smoothly transition into receiving adult supports — put forward by Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky.

Called Noah and Gregory's Law, Gretzky said she put it forward in part of two local men with autism who have now aged out of the system.

Michelle Helou, mother to Noah who is now 21, remembers her son's birthday as a sad one.

"Autism does not stop at 18," she said, explaining she's had to "rejustify" that her son has a disability in the application process for the Passport program offered by the province to help adults with developmental disabilities.

She described a two-day process where she was asked personal and intrusive questions for her son to be rated to see if he qualifies for support — even after having received disability supports for 16 years.

Mary Beth Rocheleau shares a similar story, who took a $7,000 financial cut when her son with autism turned 18. She's a single mother who also has a full-time job. The financial support previously allowed her to work as they helped pay for caregiver fees.

"My story's only one of thousands in Ontario," said Rocheleau.

Michelle Helou, whose son is 21, says she's had to justify that her son needs adult supports for his autism even though he has been receiving support for 16 years. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The bill, if passed, would amend Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, to ensure the transition process begins before the child's 18th birthday and that supports do not cut off before the transition is complete.

"It ensures that no one falls into a gap," said Gretzky.

Another part of the problem mentioned by all three people is even after the adults are approved for funding, there's a wait before the money starts flowing.

Greztky said there are "14,000 on a wait list for Passport," which are people who have been approved for funding but haven't received money yet.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services told CBC News in an email there are currently 25,000 recipients of the Passport program.

"There is no first-come, first-served system for developmental services and supports. Those persons who are determined to be most in need are prioritized for available resources," wrote Kristen Tedesco.

She further said the ministry works with the Ministry of Education for a transition planning team to help adults apply for support. And that people living with developmental disability may also be eligible for the Ontario Disability Support Program once they turn 18.

Gretzky first introduced the bill in late November and hopes to have the bill debated at Queen's Park in February.