The Ministry of Community and Social Services says “We know Mr. Mitchell deserved better and he has remained in our thoughts throughout this process.”
The Ministry spent the last year reviewing all of the jury’s recommendations, following the conclusion of the Coroner’s inquest into the death of Guy Mitchell on August 11, 2015. They provided an official response to the Office of the Chief Coroner on July 22nd 2016.
On April 29, 2012 Guy Mitchell died, all alone, in a water well on the property of his caregivers home near Hamilton. Guy was 38 years old but functioned at the level of a five year old, he had no way of telling anyone there was something wrong at the place he had called home most of his life. He could’t tell anyone there was no heat, no food and feces covering the walls, floors and beds where he lived. He couldn’t tell anyone there was no running water. Police think that’s why he was sent outside to the well, to get water. He accidentally fell in and drowned.
Guy had lived with the Santor family for 26 years and by all accounts he was well taken care of until family matriarch Karen Santor passed away. Care of Guy and others will developmental delays who were also living in the home then fell to her 26 year old daughter Keri – Lynne Santor and thats when things started to go downhill. Keri-Lynne was never properly vetted by the Ministry or Choices, the agency in charge of overseeing the home.
During the inquest the jury heard that staff at Choices did not do unannounced home inspections and were not required to inspect Guy’s bedroom, check the water or even look in the fridge. And legally they didn’t have to.
Last August the jury in the inquest recommended new laws be established to protect developmentally delayed adults on Ontario. At that time the Ministry told the VFP a working group would be formed to delve into that.
Some of the other recommendations made by the jury include educating and training employees of these facilities to recognize abuse and neglect, look at best practices and amendments to current legislation regarding reporting and investigation of suspected abuse or neglect among other initiatives.
Ten of the 13 recommendations required the ministry to establish working groups to consult and consider the jury’s recommendations. The ministry says they did that by establishing one new group and making use of two existing groups. “We know that there was a strong commitment by the participants of these groups to honour Guy’s memory through their work” Says Kristen Tedesco, Ministry of Community and Social Services. She says the first meetings were held in November 2015, and the working groups met regularly over the winter and spring months of 2016 to review, and provide advice on action the government could take to respond to the jury’s recommendations.
“The input we received from the working groups informed our response to the coroner and steps we have already taken to respond to the jury recommendations. We have undertaken significant initiatives to strengthen existing health and safety measures and safeguards.”
Some of the examples the Ministry provided are:
· In spring 2016, we introduced new Host Family Policy Directives, which incorporated much of what the jury recommended. These directives set out requirements for agencies that oversee host families, including conducting home visits at least once every 60 days with one annual, unannounced visit.
· We enhanced requirements for our agencies in their selection of host families, including making explicit an existing requirement for agencies to do a full screening even when transferring caregiver responsibilities within the same home or family.
· With input from the working groups, we have also developed Host Family Program operational guidelines that recommend best practices for agencies – for example, tips on how to conduct home visits and physical safety verifications of the Host Family’s home and property.
· To promote safety for individuals with developmental disabilities, the ministry launched ReportON to agencies in January 2016, a direct reporting line and email address (available 24/7). We have plans to help create greater public awareness of the service in fall 2016.
Tedesco says “We are committed to working with the Office of the Chief Coroner, our sector partners, individuals with developmental disabilities, and their families to ensure that the appropriate safeguards are in place to support the health and safety of adults with developmental disabilities, no matter where they live”
Click the link below for a look at all of the responses to the jury recommendations.