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Ottawa-Carleton Association for


Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD)
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About Us

 

   OCAPDD/Open Hands provides support to hundreds of persons with developmental disabilities, in every aspect of life whether seeking work opportunities, securing living arrangements or dealing with day-to-day tasks. Since fully a third of the people supported by OCAPDD are also affected by physical disabilities and other medical considerations, the scope of the organization's support is in direct response to level of need.

   OCAPDD's and Open Hands' management team oversees the operation of several residential services, recreation programs and support services, which in turn are staffed by several hundred full-time and part-time employees who support individuals living either in family settings or independently. Residential programs are open 365 days a year, with night and relief staff playing a crucial role. A manager is on call at all times.

   A volunteer board of directors, which includes parents of persons with developmental disabilities, ensures the continued health of the Association. Board members are also tireless advocates on behalf of all persons with developmental disabilities. 

   Other volunteers contribute literally hundreds of hours each month in every conceivable activity, from organizing outings, being a best buddy, tending gardens, servicing computers, mending clothes, and repairing and painting program facilities, to cite just a few examples. Volunteers are also a critical component of OCAPDD’s fund raising where they contribute hundreds of hours in activities such a planting and harvesting garlic and gift wrapping.

 

ODSN Family forum for caregivers and family members of individuals living with developmental disabilities in the Ottawa area poster  ODSN Journey to Belonging Poster

 

Announcement:

The Board engaged with Rogers Media, and participated in an “Hour To Give” hosted by Sam Laprade on City News September 16th. The focus of our message was on the importance of staff’s positions, and the need for additional recruitment. Participants in the show included Al Roberts, Leslie Walker, Anne Cole & Dave Ferguson. I have copied a link to the show & encourage you to listen to it. We will also be posting the link on our website. An Hour to Give with Sam Laprade | CityNews Ottawa

Additionally, the Board has established an online petition urging the Ontario Government to provide the same financial support to DSW students as they are to PSW students (free tuition). I would like to encourage you, and others in your personal network to view and sign the petition at: Petition · Help train more developmental service workers (DSWs) · Change.org

 

Peter Homulos (President, Board of Directors): Critical staff shortages hurt those with developmental disabilities.

 On May 16, the Ottawa Citizen published an opinion piece submitted by union leaders representing staff that work at several local developmental sector organizations in Ottawa, including ours, the Ottawa Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD). 

 As community board members, entrusted with overseeing OCAPDD, we believe the community needs to recognize that the developmental sector is experiencing a "staffing crisis" with significant short term and long-term impacts on both individuals supported, and staff. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the issue of staffing coverage in LTC facilities was highlighted daily in the media. Government at all levels responded quickly to address this crisis.  

 This issue touched everyone because most of us have someone in our lives who needs or will need long term care.  All of us want the best possible care provided to our loved ones. This means ensuring that there are properly trained staff, in sufficient numbers to meet their needs. This grave staffing shortage issue has been mirrored over the past several years in the developmental service sector. Sector organizations provide residential supports for 20,000 individuals province-wide, and a diverse range of crucial services for thousands more. 

 What concerns our board however, people with developmental disabilities who rely on supports from the sector, are often invisible to the community. This needs to change! These individuals need a voice, they are our neighbors.  

 The core staff in our sector– known as Developmental Service Workers (DSWs) – are in many ways parallel to Personal Support Workers (PSWs), and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs). Similar to those professions, DSWs are leaving the field because they are physically, and mentally exhausted due to the past three years of unbearable work stress related to the pandemic. 

 OCAPDD has averaged 15-20 vacant positions monthly since the beginning of the pandemic. The funding is there for these positions, the employees aren’t, exacerbating the workload of those staff who remain. In consequence this funding is drained by the increased costs of necessary overtime pay for the staff available.

 There is now widespread government encouragement to pursue training as a PSW, but nothing is being done to incentivize students to choose the DSW program. Data obtained from community college reports shows a drop in enrollment for DSW students of 18% between 2014 and 2021. More students during their career exploration are now selecting a career as a PSW because it is being offered with subsidized (free) tuition. As we collectively hold our government accountable on proper healthcare staffing for our elderly, we need to do the same thing for the developmental services sector.  While the public has successfully called for more government support of nursing and PSW recruitment efforts, the same outcry hasn’t happened to address DSW recruitment. Attractive tuition subsidies for the DSW will help more students discover this very rewarding profession.  

 Lack of proper staffing can lead to dangerous situations where individuals in need of constant care are unsafe.   

 You may not know someone who needs this care but ask yourself this question: if my child, grandchild, or sibling needed these supports, what services would you expect to be available in Ontario?  We’re pretty sure your answer is the same as ours: the best care possible in a safe and engaging environment. This has been jeopardized for several years.  Throughout the pandemic the news was filled with heart-wrenching stories of the challenges faced by our seniors in long-term care being isolated and restricted from seeing family members   Little was written about the identical effect the pandemic had on individuals with developmental disabilities. Imagine the impact on individuals with special needs who lost connection with their closest relationships. This hardship took a serious toll on our clients, and it was our staff that shouldered this gap.

 There is a promising opportunity for change as Ontario embarks on a multi-year DS system revitalization project called “The Journey to Belonging”. We as board members are excited to be part of this, but as we look at the looming challenges facing OCAPDD, and other organizations in the next several years, we know that fixing core problems, in particular having an adequate labour force is essential. Over the past few years, we’ve overcome so much adversity together. We are committed to fighting for quality of care, but we need your help. 

 We ask concerned community members to add your voices to those advocating with your elected representatives. Together we can ensure that those with intellectual and other special needs, who enrich our communities, get the quality of care they deserve.

 

Peter Homulos

Chair, Board of Directors

OCAPDD 

 




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