HALIFAX, NS – Callum Sutherland loves the beach and his little brother. He loves the swings and he loves to dance. His mom and dad say he’s a beautiful child who they love and adore. Today, nine-year-old Callum, who is severely impacted by Autism, remains in the Garron Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the IWK, stuck in a system that is in crisis and failing families.
The Sutherlands have had enough and today, in the midst of their own family nightmare, they are speaking out.
“Callum is a beautiful boy who has complex needs that aren’t being met,” says his mother Carly. “It’s never been easy to parent him, but we managed because we love and adore him. We won’t stop fighting for him or for families like ours who simply deserve better.”
Callum was admitted to the IWK on October 19. He was originally scheduled to be released today, November 30, but the family with supports like Autism Nova Scotia, (Attached) fought hard to buy some time. He is now scheduled to be released in one week.
The family is scared.
Even though the Garron Centre is not the right place for him, Carly and his dad, John know there are not enough resources to bring him home.
“In one week, Callum comes home. And in one week, we will be right back where we started,” says Carly. “The IWK stated they believe Callum’s needs are best serviced on an outpatient basis. We couldn’t agree more, but the joke here is that no public outpatient services exist.”
However, the family says keeping him at the children’s hospital isn’t working either.
“Callum went to the IWK because there was a serious safety issue, and there was nowhere else for him to go,” says Carly. “And while staff have tried to be supportive, they are neither able nor mandated to meet all his specific and complex needs.”
Callum remains confined to an isolated part of the unit for safety and no appropriate therapy is available. None of the programming on the unit is suitable for his needs; he is far too violent to participate in the unit’s school or recreational therapy, and he’s not verbal enough to access counselling services. The family even must bring in their own private behavioural therapists to work with Callum, spending thousands of dollars out of pocket.
“This has been a nightmare, for me, for my husband and for our youngest son,” says Carly. “Everywhere we turn is yet another roadblock.”
Carly says she’s speaking out today, not only for Callum, but for other families who find themselves in crisis.
“There is no place for Callum in the IWK. There are no supports for Callum in the community. There is nothing,” says Carly. “Children like Callum and their families exist in the shadows of our health care and education systems, and our communities. Today, I’m shedding light on children like Callum and families like mine.”
The Sutherlands need help. And they need it now.
“Today, I call on the government to right the egregious wrong that is our treatment of children with Autism in crisis, and their families,” says Carly. “We need appropriate crisis intervention services, and interagency coordination and collaboration, that meets the needs of this most vulnerable of populations.”
The Sutherlands are asking the government for three things:
– Ensure their family and other families like them have access to the necessary resources to maintain safety in their home.
– Ensure interagency coordination between the departments of community services, health, and education to communicate needs across systems and develop a shared plan to support Callum, and other complex cases like him, appropriately.
– Given that Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition with impact and challenges across the lifespan, the government should continue publicly funded evidence-based interventions past the age of six.
Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie says he was proud to host the Sutherland Family today at Province House.
“We’re seeing this far too often under this government. Families in crisis, who have no where to turn,” says Baillie. “The Sutherlands shouldn’t be forced to publicize their personal heartache just to get the care they deserve for Callum. Governments should not have to be embarrassed into doing the right thing.”
For the Sutherlands, they say the are willing to share their story, to finally get their care they need for their son.