Friday, June 09, 2006

Special Diet Victory in Sudbury

Here is an article from the newspaper Northern Life about the case of a local man whose access to the Special Dietary Supplement had been reduced despite serious and acute need. The Hunger Clinic Organizing Committee, which recently decided to change its name to the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, was active in supporting Boucher in his struggle with the Ontario Disability bureaucracy.

'Little Guy' wins fight against bureaucracy


It only took 10 weeks, but it's time to chalk-one-up for the little guy.

With his June pension cheque in hand and his special diet and transportation supplements reinstated, Raymond Boucher says he's back on his medical diet, taking his medications and has begun a new treatment schedule in preparation for surgery in mid-June.

Spokesperson for the Hunger Organizing Committee and member of the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, Clarissa Lassaline, says she is happy for Boucher.

"It's a bit of a victory. Raymond got the full amount for his diet supplement and they made it retroactive to February. We're proud of our efforts on his behalf. It's a shame he had to go about it in the way that he did...when you have to fight that hard for something that shouldn't have been cut back in the first place."

Diabetic and waiting to undergo dialysis, the 54-year-old Sudbury resident, who is too ill to work, had stopped taking medication and refused medical treatment in mid-March to protest what he saw as unfair treatment by the Ontario Disability Pension ODSP).

Boucher had been receiving a special diet supplement of $147 a month from ODSP for several years. His April cheque was less than he normally received.

The $42 transportation supplement, which helps him get to his medical appointments was cut off, and his diet supplement was reduced to $97 without explanation.

With barely any reading and writing skills, Boucher was overwhelmed by government bureaucracy and in the middle of a run-around with ODSPs staff and doctors.

Gary Kinsman from the Hunger Clinic Organizing Committee reviewed Boucher's files and sent a letter to ODSP asking it re-examine the case. With no response from ODSP, Kinsman and supporters met in Memorial Park May 10 and made their way to the ODSP office to demand the government re-examine Boucher's situation. After a 90-minute wait, the group met with Boucher's caseworker who agreed to accept yet another special diet form from Boucher's medical team.

Without admitting responsibility for the confusing letters and forms, ODSP accepted the special diet supplement request form filled out by a local dietitian.

The dietitian was able to decipher the form, which is something neither Boucher's doctor nor his specialist at the Sudbury Regional Hospital had been able to do.

"I know I could have never done it on my own. I was falling apart," Boucher says.

He says a special thanks is owed to Dawn, in MPP Rick Bartolucci's constituency office. According to Boucher, she helped him to get his transportation supplement reinstated.

This is just one of many examples across the province that demonstrate that the McGuinty government's rhetoric about the social assistance system meeting people's needs is just rhetoric. Even in as acute a case as Boucher's, whatever steps that were made in addressing his needs happened not because of a benevolent system that is finely honed to recognize and meet them, but because he was able to stand up and refuse to take the abuse, and because he had access to support in that struggle. How many other people do not have the resources to resist and are suffering and experiencing irreperable harm because they have no choice but to rely on a system that refuses to provide them with sufficient means to live healthy lives?

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