Community Living British Columbia says its residential options project will give developmentally disabled individuals a choice to move out of their group homes into more "person-centred and cost-effective" dwellings. But a leaked memo, which is being distributed widely, seems to be fanning suspicions that the project is more about cost-savings than people - suspicions the provincial government authority says simply aren't true.
According to the memo, which was sent by the authority's quality service vice-president Carol Goozh to her managers back in October, in order "to be successful, the residential options project is trying to create the conditions that will allow agencies to close group homes as a result of creating more individual and community based living arrangements."
Ms. Goozh also writes that, when residents are moved out of group homes, quality services managers will be given the "financial information that will allow us to keep track of the savings made." And that information is set to be incorporated into a report to the province's treasury board, the powerful cabinet committee responsible for budget and management matters.
In an interview, community living communications director Sally Greenwood maintained achieving cost-savings isn't the principle purpose of the residential options project. "The goal is to give individuals and families more freedom in how they choose their residential support and to enable us to collect the very best information," Ms. Greenwood explained.
"And when an individual expresses an interest in exploring an alternative residential option we're there to support them and their family or their network to see whether or not there is a different option that would be suitable. And if the outcome of this project results in cost-efficiencies, we're not going to run and hide from that."
That being said, Ms. Greenwood added, "It's also our responsibility, as a publicly-funded organization, to do the most with the money we have. But cost-efficiencies through this project are going to be allocated to support new residential options that may also allow for individuals who are currently waiting for support to receive it."
But if the project is about providing choice to developmentally disabled individuals, why has Ms. Goozh told her managers that future group home placements should only "done as a last measure after all other options have been explored?"
Responded Ms. Greenwood, "We want to ensure that everyone placed in a group home model - like any other kind of model - has first had an individual plan developed. Because historically, (group home placement) is the only thing people thought about. And what we are saying now is, before we move to that, make sure we have an individual support plan, make sure that all other options have been explored with the individual, make sure this is the best fit and then, by all means, yes that placement will take place."
Ms. Greenwood went on to reaffirm community living's commitment to ensure the safety of those moving out of group homes. "Safeguards is a huge component of everything that CLBC is undertaking, including informal and formal safeguards. We have a point person specific to safeguarding in this organization." So the fact the memo doesn't mention such safeguards, "in no way suggests it's not something that's being managed or overseen...It's an internal email to communicate a specific need around tracking information. So you can't take it out of context."
Earlier this month, Public Eye exclusively obtained a proposed service delivery plan suggesting community living could close up to 100 group homes. The authority didn't comment directly on that document. But it issued a news release a few days later discussing the residential options project. The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned memo.
TO: Quality Service Managers
FROM: Carol Goozh
DATE: October 27, 2006
SUBJECT: Monitoring Placement Activity in Shift Operated Staffed Residential Homes
This memo is to establish procedures for tracking all moves out of 24 hours staffed residential homes, and for ensuring that regions have procedures in place for the future filling of vacancies within staffed residential homes.
Step 1: Tracking moves out of 24 hour staffed residential homes
Please send via Email to Andrea Baker, or Jacinta Eni, any moves that have been made since April 01, 2006. Once we have the names Allan Lamoureaux will provide the financial information that will allow us to keep track of the savings made. The information required is as follows:
1. Name of Individual moved.
2. Agency name and location of group home.
3. Reason for move.
4. The month the Individual moved out of the residence.
5. Was the move at the request of the individual/family?
6. Is the vacancy still vacant?
If the Residential options program can reimburse the region for the cost of this new placement it will do so for the period of time the existing staff residential placement has remain vacant.
Please forward this information electronically to either Jacinta Eni or Andrea Baker. A report detailing placements out of staffed residential programs is required by November 4, 2006 to incorporate into a report to treasury board.
Step 2: Filling vacancies in Staffed Residential Resources (Group home):
To be successful, the residential options project is trying to create the conditions that will allow agencies to close groups homes as a result of creating more individualized and community based living arranagements. Quality service managers and staff will need to work with the service providers to ensure an overall plan for the agency is developed to allow for the closure of specific group homes. There is $1.1 million available through the residential options program to cover the costs of these vacancies, by paying for the costs of the new placement. Please contact Andrea Baker or Jacinta Eni for more details on how to receive these funds.
In the future I require assurance from QS staff that when a placement is made into a group home that it is done as a last measure after all other options have been explored. Such a placement is to have a plan that supports and recommends this type of placement. If the individual does not have a plan, the placement must be considered temporary and the plan must be developed within 60 days of placement. Ongoing quarterly reports are needed that detail any placements into a 24 hour staffed resource.
The report should include the following information:
1. Individual's name
2. Agency and location of resource
3. Reason for the move (planned or unplanned)
4. Date placement was made into the home
The first report is to be completed by the end of November and a financial report at the end of February, 2006, which should anticipate any planned placements that will be made in March, 2007.