“Changes in speech-language service will harm kids” (Feb. 7, 2014 Toronto Star)

A Feb. 7, 2014 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Changes in speech-language service will harm kids, health official says.”

The subhead reads: “Head of the LAMP Community Health Centre worries that fewer preschoolers who struggle to communicate will get help after [Toronto Preschool Speech and Languages Service] revamps its program.”

The opening paragraphs read:

A plan by Toronto Public Health to overhaul a speech and language program for preschoolers who have trouble communicating will result in longer wait lists and more children doing without, charges the head of an Etobicoke community health centre.

“There are going to be fewer providers, which means longer waiting lists and fewer kids. They are not putting the needs of children first,” said Russ Ford, executive director of the LAMP Community Health Centre.

“I can’t live with myself and not speak out. . . . This is ridiculous, this is outrageous,” he said.

Councillor Joe Mihevc, chair of the city’s health board, could not comment on the allegations. He acknowledged that the Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Service is being reorganized, but explained that the city is in the midst of a tendering process for new providers of the service and blackout rules prohibit him from commenting.

Russ Ford, executive director of LAMP Community Health Centre, fears that a city overhaul of speech pathology programs will result in fewer services for children.

But staff reports, presented at earlier health board meetings, reveal that the program has been in trouble for years. Demand by children who need help with communication skills far outstrips supply.

Provincial funding has been flatlined at about $8 million and since 2007-08, staff has been cut and the waiting list has grown to 27 weeks from 18 weeks.

“This means that children aged 4 and older who are referred to the program are likely to age out of the program (when they go to elementary school) while they are still on the wait list and never receive the service,” states one report.

The city contracts and subcontracts about 20 agencies, including LAMP, to deliver the service. The city wants to reduce that number to no more than five.

[End of excerpt]

A link to a petition that appeared earlier at this site has been removed. The petition has been removed for reasons related to the possibility of legal liability.

Update: On a related topic, a Feb. 9, 2014 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Prosperity depends on public commitment to child health, conference hears.” The opening paragraphs read:

  • Canada’s future prosperity could be at stake if policies related to young children fail to catch up to the scientific evidence.
  • That was a key takeaway from a special symposium held in Toronto last week that brought together world experts in the biology of child and brain development with those who specialize in the health and success of entire societies.


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