‘Nowhere for him to go’: Ontario parents of son with autism struggling to find care

The parents of a 23-year-old say he has been placed in a psychiatric ward for the last 8 months when he really needs specialized care, but none is available.

By Cynthia Mulligan and Meredith Bond

An Owen Sound couple is frustrated by a lack of options available for their son with autism, who has spent the last eight months in the psychiatric unit of a hospital waiting to get the care he needs.

Michelle and Sean Crooks have 23-year-old twin sons who both have been diagnosed with autism. During COVID-19, both of their sons struggled without a regular routine, but Aidan started exhibiting violent tendencies.

“A year ago, we had been dealing with Aiden through the outpatient psychiatric unit and trying to try out some medications to see if that would help with sleeping and with lessening his aggressive behaviours. And it didn’t really work, and we ended up with more violence,” explained Michelle.

It got to the point where the Crooks were forced to call 911, and the police and the mental health unit came to place him in psychiatric care.

“Aiden was pretty out of control. In the end, he was attacking anybody. We were afraid and didn’t even want to go to work, leaving only Michelle at home because he was just so unpredictable,” said Sean.

Family pays $13,000 a month for care

Currently, they are waiting to get him into a home that can provide specialized care and get him stabilized before he can be allowed to get into a group home. However, there is no space for him, and they’ve been told it could be another three years.

Because Aidan is non-verbal, they are also forced to pay for a one-on-one nurse to provide basic care for him at a cost of $13,000 per month, despite him being in a hospital right now.

“He’s getting no real health care for his problems, his underlying problems about why he is violent or why he cannot control that impulse. He’s getting no help. There is nowhere for him to go,” added Sean.

The Crooks have been told their son is at the top of the crisis list, but basically, “someone would have to die for him to get care.”

“He needs people who are trained to deal with persons like him who possibly have medical issues, possibly have behaviour issues that have become a part of his routine, and they need to be broken,” said Michelle.

“He needs people two-to-one who can help him so that we can figure out what’s going on so that we can have a future. Right now, if he was placed in a home, he’s going to end up right back in the psychiatric unit because he’s going to hurt someone or he’s going to hurt himself.”

They found a place that would be perfect for Aidan called Crest in London, which specializes in those who have a dual diagnosis, health needs and mental health needs.

“There are these huge success stories, but they only have seven beds. And in order for you to even get on the waitlist for them, you have to already have housing in place.”

“He can’t get help for his behaviours” 

The Crooks say they’ve been stuck in endless limbo because of that.

“He can’t get help for his behaviours because there’s no end place for him to go. There’s no end place for him to go because he has behaviours.”

The Ministry of Health has recently provided them with some funding to cover the $13,000 per month, but Michelle tells CityNews they fear what could happen if he has to remain there.

“We’re out of money in two months into the fiscal year, and we’re begging the Ministry to help us … It’s a last resort, like no one wants to have to do this, but there comes a point where for everyone’s safety, you don’t have a choice. There are no choices,” said Michelle.

“He has no business being there. And the reason why everything’s so difficult for us and because he’s been placed in the wrong place only because there’s nowhere for him to go. And so that’s the real shame here,” said Sean.

“I think we broke, and now we’re trying to put ourselves back together. And it’s a slow process,” said Michelle.

The Crooks say they just want their son back.

“My hope for him is that we figure out what’s happening so that we can help him and that he can be happy again,” said Michelle.

“We see it sometimes; we see that boy, and he is happy and smiling and giggling. And our hope is that we see him more and we get to share things with them again.”

The Ontario Autism Coalition tells CityNews this is not an isolated situation, they know of similar cases, and there aren’t enough resources for adults with autism. Getting answers from the government has not been easy.

CityNews reached out to the Ministry of Social Services and was told that this was an issue for the Ministry of Health. We have not received a response from the Ministry of Health at this time.

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