Non-profit calls on government to investigate alleged neglect at Stephenville care home

·3 min read
Ray McIsaac, a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living, says after learning of Allison Decker's situation his group fears the progress it has made is backsliding. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Ray McIsaac, a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living, says after learning of Allison Decker's situation his group fears the progress it has made is backsliding. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living is calling on the provincial government to investigate the alleged abuse and neglect of a disabled woman inside a Stephenville care home.

Allison Decker had been living in a basement apartment in the western Newfoundland town, and was under 24-hour care from staff of the Bay St. George Residential Support Board.

Decker, 46, developed intellectual disabilities after suffering multiple seizures that caused significant brain damage just days after she was born.

Minette Firth, Decker's sister, recently told CBC News she was shocked when she arrived at her sister's care home in July and found there to be no television or books and a locked refrigerator.

Decker also told Firth she had been locked inside the apartment for hours.

Ray McIsaac, a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living, a non-profit that offers resources for people with intellectual disabilities, told CBC News his organization has for decades helped get people away from institutional life and move them to community-based support systems.

After learning of Decker's alleged situation, he fears that progress is backsliding.

"This case specifically, of this young lady being abused, neglected and mistreated [by] the Residential Support Board, is a sad development for our association, because the association was instrumental in setting up the co-operative apartment delivery system in partnership with the provincial government," McIsaac said.

"Over time, I guess what's happened here is this particular agency has drifted away from the core values of the association and our belief in the integrity and equal rights of all persons with disabilities."

Submitted by Minette Firth
Submitted by Minette Firth

Funding for companies like the Residential Support Board comes the province's Department of Health and Community Services. Additional funding may be provided by the Community Support Program through Western Health if clients are eligible.

Western Health has told CBC News it's investigating the situation but won't comment on individual circumstances.

Letter to government

McIsaac said his association wrote a letter to Health Minister John Haggie and Justice Minister John Hogan in August, calling for an immediate investigation.

He said the association feels their concerns could have criminal implications for the staff and management of the Residential Support Board.

They're asking government to investigate procedures and policies on a larger scale to ensure support boards and the overseeing boards of directors are operating properly across the province.

"Are people's rights being respected? Are people being over-medicated, as an example, to facilitate the ease of care because of understaffing? Are people being restrained and locked away, punished or ridiculed as in some of the allegations that have arisen out of this particular case," McIsaac said.

"I think, obviously, for something like this to happen there has to be a breakdown from an accountability perspective. Things didn't get here overnight. I think we have to consider that there has to be some kind of audit function, some kind of accountability."

CBC News also asked for comment from the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, which is responsible for the provincial Adult Protection Act, but received no response.

Michelle King, executive director of the Bay St. George Residential Support Board, declined comment.

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