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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2014 5:00PM
Contact: Russ Ford, Executive Director
LAMP Community Health Centre
Advocacy Campaign to Save Community-Based Speech Programs Jolts Toronto Public Health
Etobicoke, ON -- Parents in the Lakeshore are calling their public education campaign to inform others about Toronto Public Health‘s plan to dismantle community based speech and language programs a huge success.
“We started this less than a week ago and the response from parents has been tremendous. People clearly want a say in how services are provided to our children and Toronto Public Health has refused to talk to parents,” said Dr. Jeffrey Squire and board member of LAMP Community Health Centre and a parent with a child in the speech program.
The campaign involves an on-line petition and a card signing campaign. So far almost 600 have signed the petition which is then sent to the mailboxes of the members of Toronto City Council who are on the board of health. The cards which now number about 800, will be delivered to the Board of Health at a future meeting which the parents are hoping to have soon.
“The board says they cannot talk about it because it is now in the RFP process. That should never have happened because any cuts to service have to be approved by the board. The board was never informed of the service cut when they approved this plan,” said Russ Ford LAMP’s Executive Director.
LAMP became aware of the service cut when they reviewed the recent RFP. While the overall budget of the program will not change, money is being taken away from front line services and put into management and administration which will result in even longer wait times for children. Ford has estimated the service cut to be around 16%.
Under the new proposal children currently receiving speech and language therapy will have the therapeutic relationship they now have with their speech pathologist terminated. They will then be reassigned by the organization that wins one of the RFPs to a new provider.
“My child has made great progress because of the relationship they have with their speech pathologist. This will end for almost every child in Toronto just so Toronto Public Heath can address its administrative needs. The needs of the children, many of whom have special needs like autism, should always come first,” said Dr. Squire.
LAMP has provided speech and language services in South Etobicoke long before Toronto Public Health got involved but has decided not to apply for the RFP. A leaked internal email from senior management in Public Health indicated that should LAMP apply they would not be given consideration. LAMP has filed a complaint with the city’s ombudsman saying such a statement should be sufficient to stop this RFP.
In a recent communique Toronto Public Health said the changes are to make access easier for parents to access the service and maintain the community based nature of the program.
“I do not know how they can say what parents want. How do they know? I do not know of anyone who has complained about the intake process. Parents are concerned about the time it takes to get their child service and these changes will just make that longer. The community-based approach is much more efficient than the centralized top down approach being proposed by TPH. Worse still, TPH's proposal is devoid of any meaningful consultation with parents whose lives are likely to be impacted by the outcome. As well, community-based service providers such as LAMP who have been in the speech and language business longer than TPH were not consulted. This poses an affront on our ideals as Canadians and it’s a shame," said Dr. Squire.
Many non-profit agencies are viewing this as either a power or money grab by the city and as a direct attack on agencies.
Rob Howarth, Executive Director of Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, a coalition of agencies across the city also finds the city’s process extreme problematic.
“The reorganization efforts to date do not seem to have engaged community partners effectively and the resulting top-down planning process is not compatible with true community based planning.”
Ford says community-based services are not defined solely on where a service is located. It is about being responsive to the needs of local communities and shared decision making. He said that Public Health is clearly not interested in either.
LAMP Community Health Centre is a multi-service, community-based charitable organization that provides a wide range of programs and services to improve a person's health. LAMP uses a co-ordinated approach to connect people to medical services and other programs that build personal resources. By providing services that improve physical, emotional, social and economic well-being, people can better control their health and environment. For more information, visit lampchc.org or contact Russ Ford, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-252-6471.