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Disabled teen may be moved from jail to home

Nov 22 2011

A 19-year-old man with severe developmental disabilities might finally get a proper home after being held in a youth jail for seven months because the B.C. government had no place else to put him.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, representative for children and youth, said she received "good news" last week that Community Living B.C. has taken another look at the file in the wake of recent publicity.

The government agency has agreed to provide the man with 24-hour support in a group home, instead of just a few hours of supervision a day in the community.

The change is likely to result in the teenager finally getting out of jail.

"I can't make a decision for a judge, but I anticipate he will be released [this week] back into the community with supports," Turpel-Lafond said. "I'm just absolutely delighted, and I think that's the right and good thing to do."

Turpel-Lafond warned this month that jail was becoming the default home for disabled young people when there is no support in the community. "Basically, we're using jail as the services for him," she said.

"CLBC has not been able to find a placement for him."

Turpel-Lafond said the young man had never been found guilty of alleged crimes, because it was unclear whether he was fit to stand trial. He has the developmental age of a sixyearold and has been diagnosed with mental retardation, Tourette's syndrome, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and bipolar affective disorder.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development previously paid for him to receive intensive support in a group home. But the placement broke down, he got into trouble with the law, and he spent his 19th birthday in a youth custody centre. At that point, responsibility for his care shifted to Community Living B.C., which provides services to adults with developmental disabilities.

Turpel-Lafond mentioned the case in a brief to the federal government about its youth justice law, and elaborated on her concerns in an interview with the Times Colonist this month. She said the publicity appeared to get the government's attention.

"I think it was a factor," she said. "Obviously, I'd like us to have a system where we didn't depend on that."

Government has ordered an internal audit and review by senior bureaucrats.

lkines@timescolonist.com