Special Needs Strategy sought for Sudbury-Manitoulin District

by Betty Bardswich

MINDEMOYA—The Ontario government’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services hosted an information webinar at the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) in Mindemoya on March 11. The purpose of the open forum was to outline a Special Needs Strategy (SNS) to help families with children and youth with special requirements including physical, developmental, and/or communication needs get timely and effective services whether it be at home, at school or in the community and to outline the Sudbury-Manitoulin Proposal Development Table.

Facilitated by Joanne Tramontini, the clinical manager at the Children’s Treatment Centre in Sudbury, and Dr. Terri Barriault, a member of the Executive Leadership Team of Child and Community Resources, those in attendance were informed that the government of Ontario has asked agencies in the Sudbury-Manitoulin District to come together in order to improve the service coordination and integration of rehabilitation services to children and youth with special needs.

As outlined in the webinar, in order that the children and their families achieve the timely and effective services that the government envisions will take change at the provincial and local levels, collaboration across sectors, listening to family and youth input and innovative approaches to addressing challenges and barriers for families, this will mean a seamless experience of services, clear access and service plans, smooth transitions and the fact that stories will not have to be told over and over. An overview of the first steps for the SNS includes a new, voluntary developmental screen to identify potential risks to children’s development and to connect them with the services they need. This screen will be developed by scientific experts and grounded in a strong understanding of child development and will be appropriate for children ages 0 to 6. It will be offered at well-publicized community locations by trained staff and will not be compulsory but will be available to parents upon request. As well, this screen will identify risks for healthy development and developmental delays and, if a need or needs are identified, children will be referred for further assessment and treatment. The second step is a coordinated service planning processes for children with multiple and/or complex special needs so families can access a range of services and supports. This is for children and youth with multiple and/or complex special needs who would benefit from added support due to the breadth and cross-sectional nature of their service needs. Also, these children and their families will have a service plan that is built around their strengths and needs, their stories will not have to be told multiple times and they will have a “go to” person when they have a question about their service plans and who will monitor the child’s service needs. A third step will be the integrated delivery of rehabilitation services so children have access to speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy services delivered seamlessly from birth to the end of school. These services will be built around their goals for home, school and the community and will be delivered in a way and in the place that meets the needs of the child and family. Two proposals for the Ministries’ approval from each of the 34 service delivery areas in Ontario will see the Coordinated Service Planning due June 15, 2015 with implementation beginning in November, 2015, the Integrated Delivery of Rehabilitation Services due October 30, 2015 with implementation beginning June 2016. The Developmental Screen is scheduled to be available in 2017.

In outlining the expectations of the coordinated service planning, it shows that there are three key elements. These include a single coordinating agency in each service delivery area, dedicated service planning coordinators and one coordinated service plan for each child/youth with multiple and/or complex special needs. The locally developed proposals will describe how children and youth with multiple and/or complex special needs and their families will have: a clear referral process, access to a service planning coordinator with collaborative relationships across sectors, one coordinated service plan that takes into account all of their goals, strengths and needs and family involvement in determining needs and strengths and setting goals. The outcomes of this planning will be an improved service experience, the fact that families won’t have to repeat their stories multiple times and families will know who is responsible for helping them with and monitoring their service plans.

Under delivery of rehabilitation services, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy services will be realigned so that children and families experience rehabilitation services as one program, do not require a lead agency model and are not about amalgamation. These services will be delivered seamlessly from birth through school exit, families and regulated health professionals will work together to determine needs and there will be a broad range of intervention types available. Parents and youth will have transparent access to services and can self refer to services, children can access services regardless of age, severity of disorder and/or diagnosis and services will be continuous across transition points.

These rehabilitation services are currently provided through Children’s Treatment Centres, Preschool Speech and Language (PSL) Program lead and partner agencies, Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), District School Boards (Public and Separate and French and English), School Authorities, Section 68 School Authorities and Section 23 Programs in Care, Treatment or Custody and/or Correctional Facilities and Children’s Development Services.

The Sudbury Manitoulin Proposal Development Table was also discussed at the webinar showing that work thus far has been about planning and setting the stage, that is, putting in place the people and processes to support system change and proposal development. There are 14 agencies involved including Children’s Community Network, Child and Community Resources, Wordplay, Rainbow District School Board, Child and Family Centre, Sudbury and District Health Unit, Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, Community Care Access centre, Sudbury District School Board, Ontario Local Health Integration network, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario, Conseil scolaire public Grand Nord de L’Ontario, and Health Sciences North.

The Sudbury Manitoulin Special needs Steering Committee makes key decisions based on sub-committee input and is responsible for final proposal submissions. This includes the Family and Youth Engagement Committee which provides input and makes recommendations on key process areas touching families, children and youth. Also included are two sub-committees, the Coordinated Service Planning Sub-Committee which is focussed on the development of the coordinated service planning proposal and the Integrated Rehab Service Delivery Sub-Committee to be focussed on the development of the integrated rehab service delivery proposal.

Several matters under the development table have been dealt with including the election of co-chairs, the development of terms of reference, the completion and approval of a budget and the hiring of a project facilitator with expertise in process improvement. As well, a communication plan/strategy has been developed, plans have been made for family engagement, a detailed work plan has been established and outreach has been made to aboriginal service providers and agencies not already involved.

It was emphasized at the meetings that family and youth involvement is essential to ensure that the proposals reflect the voices, needs, strengths and goals of children and youth with special needs and their families and to support proposal development that places the needs of children, youth and families at the centre.

Caregivers can provide consultation and feedback on the strengths and opportunities for improvement in the system by participating in a survey found at English – http://bitly.com/1zLmIzB or en Francais – http://bit.ly.1zLn1F9

For more information, go to the Ontario Special needs Strategy website http://specialneedsstrategy.children.gov.on.ca.