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People with developmental disabilities in Ontario more likely to die young, report suggests

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People with developmental disabilities are more likely than the non-disabled to encounter problems with Ontario’s health-care system regardless of age, sex or class, a new study suggests.

The research from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found those with developmental disabilities were significantly more likely to die young, languish in hospital without plans for appropriate aftercare, spend time in long-term care, or have repeat hospitalizations and emergency room visits than their non-disabled peers.

The study, compiled by researchers from ICES, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, said the findings held true regardless of what disability was specifically at play. They also transcended a variety of boundaries that usually serve as strong predictors of poor health outcomes, such as age and socioeconomic status.

Elizabeth Lin, CAMH scientist and co-lead author of the study, which was released Thursday, said the data suggests the presence of a developmental disability is the factor that leaves people most vulnerable.

“There’s something about developmental disabilities in and of itself that appears to be contributing to these higher rates of the outcomes that we looked at,” Lin said in a telephone interview.

The researchers surveyed the medical records of more than 64,000 Ontario residents with a range of developmental disabilities, including autism and Down syndrome, and analyzed data compiled between 2010 and 2016.

Disproportionate impact 

In each of the negative health outcomes the researchers analyzed, they found a disproportionate impact on the developmentally disabled population.

Lin said what shocked her the most during the course of the research was the early mortality rate, which researchers defined as dying before the age of 75.

Across all age groups, income brackets and sexes, the early mortality rate of 1.6 per cent prevailing in the non-disabled population soared to 6.1 per cent for the developmentally disabled. That number doubled to 12.3 per cent for those with Down syndrome.

The study found 34.5 per cent of disabled people had to visit an emergency room more than once in a 30-day stretch compared to 19.6 for the non-disabled. The pattern held for repeat hospital stays in a 30-day period, where the findings showed 7.4 per cent for the disabled and 2.3 per cent for those without a disability.

The data indicates a phenomenon known as alternate level of care, in which someone spends at least one day in hospital despite being medically cleared for release, only impacts 0.7 per cent of the non-disabled population. That figure jumped to 4.6 per cent for those with developmental disabilities.

In the age groups included in the survey, which ranged from 19 to 64, only 0.2 per cent of non-disabled people spend at least a day in a long-term care home. For the disabled, that figure was 3.5 per cent.

One of those impacted was Teresa Pocock, who spent a brief stint in an Ontario nursing home despite being just 49 at the time.

“It was terrible,” said Pocock, who now lives with family and pursues art in Vancouver. “I don’t like it.”

The report did not explore the causes of the numerous gaps in care, but researchers and those with lived experience of navigating the health system with a developmental disability said the reasons are complex.

Yona Lunsky, director of CAMH’s Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre, said there’s widespread ignorance in the medical field about the ways developmental disabilities manifest themselves.

In sessions she’s conducted with emergency room staff, for instance, she’s repeatedly heard that disabled patients are rare arrivals. After viewing teaching videos of common scenarios, however, session participants say they come across such situations more often than they realized.

‘I don’t think we’ve been as accommodating as we can’

Lunsky said society’s disproportionate focus on developmentally disabled children may be at the heart of some of the misconceptions.

Health-care professionals are not trained to recognize developmental disabilities and provide appropriate care in adulthood, she said, adding they often expect their patients to show symptoms and behaviours based on stereotypes they’ve long grown past.

But stigma also plays a role, she said, adding people with invisible disabilities may not be willing or able to communicate their situations in environments they’ve found unsupportive in the past.

“I don’t think we’ve been as accommodating as we can to give that message to people that says, ‘we want to know about what your unique needs are so that we can accommodate them,” she said. “Some people, at least, are thinking, ‘I’m going to be treated worse if I make it obvious that I have this disability, or I’m not going to get the care that I need.”‘

The report contains numerous recommendations for the health-care and social sectors, including:

  • Giving people with disabilities a more prominent voice in their own care.
  • Establishing more supports to keep people out of long-term care for longer.
  • Setting up reviews in early mortality cases to determine the causes.

Such actions would be welcome to Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair. She, too, noted that stereotypes across the spectrum of abilities can lead to lasting harm.

“When you’re perceived as not competent, you’re denied autonomy and the ability to take control over your own decisions in relation to your health,” she said. “If you try to assert your own control, they assume you don’t actually need support.”

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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