Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hockey or Healthcare? What's More Important?

I have been emailing back and forth with my MPP, Kevin Flynn's office for the past month. The first email I sent outlined my family's situation regarding Max and the 3 year wait list for IBI therapy. I was actually impressed that I received a response from his assistant Sila Irwin withing 5 days. Not bad considering it took three emails and over two months for MPP Joyce Savoline to email my father-in-law back regarding the same issue.

Here is the email thread:
January 22nd: My initial email

January 27th: Response from Sila Irwin

Dear Katrina,

Thank you for taking the time to write to MPP Flynn. We fully understand your families frustration. I have made some calls on your behalf to Erin Oak Kids and to Halton Support Services. I will touch base with you soon once I hear back from them.

Sincerely,
Siva Irwin
Constituency Assistant
Office of Kevin Flynn, MPP Oakville
Tel: 905-827-5141
Fax: 905-827-3786

January 28th: Follow-up from Sila Irwin

Hi Katrina,

I don't know if you have contacted the Halton Support Services regarding your son, but I made an initial phone call to Joelle Powell an in take worker and she has informed me that if you haven't already touched base with her you should contact her. Her number is 1-800-600-2013 ext 221. She has informed me that there is a long wait list for IBI therapy but there some resources for parents and the children that she may be able to assist you with. She may also assist you in getting other ministry funding and may help your son get into other programs. Please do touch base with Joelle. She is well informed in this field and will be able to provide you and Max with further assistance. I have not heard from Erin Oaks Kids, but I will contact you as soon as I hear from them.

Sincerely,
Siva Irwin
January 29th: My response to Siva @ MPP Flynn's office
Hi Siva,

I have left a message with Joelle. (NOTE: As of February 17th, I have NOT had a response fro Joelle yet...very helpful). I am aware of the support services available - but I will speak with her to see if there are any new ones that have become available recently. The real issue here though, is the wait list for IBI therapy. Everything else is merely a bandaid. While everyone seems willing to acknowledge that the wait list is lengthy, nobody is doing anything about it. What I need is for someone to truly champion this cause - that someone being MPP Flynn. While it may not be as sexy as say, "A Second NHL Team for us!", (the issue currently highlighted on MPP Flynn's homepage) in the big picture, providing treatment for children locked away by autism is far more important. I would like to invite MPP Flynn, and yourself, to my home to meet Max. Perhaps then you would understand how dire this situation is. Please extend the invitation to MPP Flynn on my behalf. If this is not possible, I can bring my son to your office.

Katrina C.

February 4th: My 2nd follow-up to Siva @ MPP Flynn's office (no response received after previous email)

Hi Siva,

I just wanted to let you know that Joelle has not returned my call as of yet. I also left a message for you at MPP Flynn's office yesterday, with the hope that you would call me back. I look forward to hearing from you.

thanks,
Katrina C.

After this email, I received a call in less than 5 minutes. Siva and I discussed that matter in further detail, where I reiterated my frustrations and she repeated the information she had already outlined in previous emails. Yes, yes, the wait list is very long. Yes, yes, we all agree that these kids need treatment. Yes, yes, MPP Flynn cares about this issue. But then the shocker. She told me that all MPP Flynn could really do is write a letter to the Minister of Children and Youth Services on Max's behalf. That's it. No more. I told her that I had already written to said Minister, and that as MPP Flynn's constituent, I expected more than a mere letter written on my behalf. I also told her that I found it completely insulting that he is able to advocate for a 2nd NHL Team for us, but cannot advocate for a child with Autism. I requested a meeting with MPP Flynn and was promised that she would get back to me with a date and a time.

February 17th: Follow-up from Sila Irwin

Hi Katrina,

At the request of MPP Flynn, I have once again touched base with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services regarding funding for autism and what the province is doing. The Ministry understands that there is still more to be done, but the government has made significant progress for families and kids with autism. 10 years ago, there was no funding for autism in Ontario. Today, the government has more than tripled autism spending from $44 million to $158 million dollars, including $20 million more in 2008 Budget.

The province has removed the previous government's age six cut-off and doubled the number of kids getting IBI through the AIP - approximately 1300 now up from just over 500 four years ago. Respite care for over 3,600 families are provided. This government is continuing to work hard with the Ministry of Education to increase the number of children with autism who can get the support they need in school.

The ministry understands the challenges faced by families of children with autism and how important these services are to them. The IBI program has grown very quickly and the ministry's strategy is to consolidate the rapid expansion so that it can continue to move ahead, providing a full range of support for children and their families.

Katrina, one can only imagine what you and your son Max go through on a daily basis. No one can argue that more funding isn't needed. Kevin has advocated for autism funding for years. As you can see, funding for autism in Ontario was only established 10 years ago and the current government is continuing build on this and to continue making strides for children with autism and their families. Should you wish to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Siva Irwin

There it is in a nutshell, folks. Instead of addressing the issue and actually saying he will do something, I have been given a rundown on the history of funding for Autism funding in Ontario (see how far we have come - isn't that AWESOME??), been told of other services available while I wait 3 years for publicly funded IBI, and been pretty much patted on the head. No mention of the meeting I requested with MPP Flynn, no mention of the fact that he has all the time in the world to advocate for another NHL team for Oakville. Because really, what we need right now is more hockey. Hockey over healthcare, I get it - keep the masses focused on the sexy stuff instead of what really matters. This is why people lose faith in government. Excuse me while I go bang my head against the wall with Max for a while.

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5 comments:

  1. An interesting note here is that the very next morning after I posted this, I got a call from MPP Flynn's assistant offering me a 9am appointment on Friday. I wonder if she saw my blog post? ;-P

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  2. Anonymous5:27 AM

    Haha, they probably have his name set for a Google Alert.

    Good luck with the appointment, Kat. I know unfortunately too much about how useless the government can be. But you're a fighter and I'm confident you can get priorities changed.

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  3. You go girl! What's that saying ... something like "never doubt that an individual or small group of individuals can change the world ... in fact it's all that ever has".

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  4. I met with Kevin for an hour this morning. Really great guy. I'm hopeful that he will be able to help us...guess only time will tell.

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  5. savvymomx29:08 PM

    I'm so happy I found your blog. I wrote to my MPP Peter Shurman two months ago and have yet to hear back. I just fired off a follow up email and I am hoping to get a response this time around. I expect I'll get the same song and dance you got initially, but I plan to be persistent.

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