On December 16, 1999 Elizabeth Witmer, the Minister of Health & Long Term Care (MOHLTC) announced the government's commitment to provide School Health Support Services to all independent school and home educated school aged children in the province. This new initiative will come into effect in September, 2000. The expected cost to start up this program is between 3 & 4 million dollars. These services would be identical to those the public school children already receive since 1984. All costs will be covered by the MOHLTC through the local Community Care Access Centres (CCAC).
For all you history buffs, you may recall that the health services issue has long been a contention between independent educators and the government. It was part of the independent school funding issue that went to the Supreme Court a few years ago. That is known as the Adler case. The independent schools (OFTP was a party to this case) lost in their bid under the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. The Supreme Court ruled that the issue should be settled politically as there was no legal format for the court to force the Ontario government to fund independent education. Further pressure was brought on the government when the United Nations considered the issue and decided that there were discriminatory actions by the provincial government. To placate the independent education sector, Premier Harris decided the time was politically correct to extend the health services to the independent and home schooled children.
Since early January, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents has been engaged in a series of implementation meetings with the various stake holders and the Ministry of Health. There are still a good number of details to iron out including the final wording of the regulation that will be put into effect this summer. However, our last meeting on June 20, 2000 allows OFTP to make the information available to our members.
It is estimated that about four percent of home schooled children will be able to benefit from this extended service. As well, it is understood that some of your children who can benefit from this service are already doing so. That is good.
What is covered in this extended School Health Support Service?
Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Nursing, Physiotherapy, and Dietetic Services.
How do you access this service?
Educators, school principals and parents can refer a child to the local Community Care Access Centre for an assessment. When you believe or have reason to believe that your child may qualify for any of these services, contact your local Community Care Access Centre. Set up an appointment with a case worker there before September 1, 2000 if possible. Identify yourself as a parent whose child is in an independent school or is taught at home and that your school aged child may qualify for the school health support service. If the case worker does not consider your child to be eligible, ask for a referral to a professional or other agency who may be able to help. Do not be shy.
What are Community Care Access Centres?
In 1996, 43 Community Care Access Centres were created to consolidate health care services provided by 38 home care programs and 36 placement services. They are responsible, in part, for determining eligibility for, and buying on behalf of consumers the highest quality best priced visiting professional and homemaker services provided at home and in publicly funded schools as well as service planning and case management for each client. It must be remembered, however, that regardless of the amount of money willing to be spent, it is the availability of the right professional people that will determine the success of the programs offered. Unfortunately there is a great shortage of professionals in the fields of the services extended.
Who pays for this service?
The government is willing to commit whatever dollars are required to make this service work for you. All costs will be paid for by the Ministry of Health through the local Community Care Access Centre. You will receive no invoice for the service whether your child qualifies or not.
Where do I get further information?
A list of all Community Care Access Centres is included below. The local CCAC can provide you with a list of the services offered or refer you to someone who does. If problems are encountered please contact your local OFTP contact. The Ontario Community Care Access Centre website is www.oaccac.on.ca.
Ontario Community Care Access Centres (CCAC's)
[The article included a list of all the CCACs. You can find that information in its most current form on the website of the Ontario Association of Community Care Access Centres.]