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More local services needed for people with intellectual disabilities, meeting told

Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda lacks a legal framework covering adults with intellectual disabilities — from safeguarding the vulnerable to rules surrounding giving consent for treatment.

A town hall meeting this week reviewed the continuing work for a national plan covering Bermuda residents with intellectual disabilities.

Among the panellists was Jose Lopez, the parent of a 23-year-old living with disabilities, who said the plan entailed “many different aspects coming together — some will happen smoother than others”.

“There may be some things done over the next few months. Others will be over years.

“We very much need the engagement of the community to make this as full and as well thought-out as possible.”

The national plan, which remains a draft document online, is to serve as “the key guiding document for the next five years”, according to social development and seniors minister Tinée Furbert.

Ms Furbert spoke this month as she announced two weeks of public consultation on the plan.

An estimated 400 to 500 adults and 125 children contend with intellectual disabilities.

But Morrisa Rogers, the director of intellectual disability for Bermuda Hospitals Board, told the forum the precise number was not known: “We don’t know for sure. It makes it difficult.”

Ms Rogers said it underscored the need for a national disability case register.

Highlighting the island’s legislative gaps, she said: “I don’t know if many people realise that we don’t have laws that protect our vulnerable people.

“We have laws that protect children and seniors. We struggle to protect those aged 18 to 64 who are considered to be vulnerable.”

Alick Bush, a clinical psychologist with BHB, said a similar gap confronted support staff having to give consent for medical treatment on behalf of someone with an intellectual disability.

“It’s not appropriate,” he said.

Mr Bush said another issue was the lack of services on the island capable of meeting the needs of people with complex needs.

“Some of the young people who are really struggling, where services are finding it hard to meet their needs, too often have ended up transferred overseas to specialised services.”

He said there was a push to build more resources on the island “to bring young people back from overseas”.

He explained: “If one dollar is spent overseas, it trains staff overseas. If those same dollars are spent locally, then people are being trained locally.”

A “stakeholder oversight group” will be tasked with moving the plan forward, the online meeting heard.

Mr Bush said people with intellectual disabilities and their advocates would play an important role.

Submissions and suggestions are being taken online to the end of the month.

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Published May 30, 2022 at 8:04 am (Updated May 30, 2022 at 8:04 am)

More local services needed for people with intellectual disabilities, meeting told

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