Autistic restrained, sedated in Ottawa hospital 19 months

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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 64
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Location: Long Island, New York

30 Sep 2021, 9:51 am

'What we need doesn't exist': Ont. man with autism has been in hospital for 19 months, sedated, restrained and getting sicker

Nearly 20 months after Jean-Marc Lang entered The Ottawa Hospital, the 27-year-old Orléans man with autism, developmental delays and severe behavioural issues is still waiting for meaningful help, his parents say.

“Just yesterday he was saying ‘Car!’ and ‘Home!'” relates his mother, Hélène Boisvert.

Jean-Marc has been in a secure acute psychiatric ward at The Ottawa Hospital since February 2020, when his parents, Boisvert and Michael Lang, had to call 911 after a particularly violent outburst during a trip to IKEA. When they first contacted this newspaper in November 2020 — after Jean-Marc had already spent nine months in hospital — there was an opening for him at a Kingston treatment facility for adults with developmental issues. But they were told there was no money available from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to pay the estimated $2,000 a day cost for treatment.

Now that opening is gone and, as he closes in on two years in his hospital room, Jean-Marc’s behaviours have become so bad that the hospital says it’s unlikely they would be able to discharge him anyway. He spends his days sedated, often in physical restraints.

Jean-Marc’s life is ruled by harrowing rituals and behaviours. It includes self injury, where he pulls out his own fingernails and toenails. He incessantly picks at wounds and scabs.

He’s obsessed with any flaws or imperfections and will try to destroy anything that’s blemished. He has broken three iPods, sometimes biting them so hard that he has chipped his teeth. Once, he ripped at a hospital staff member’s ID card because he saw it was damaged. That has led to a new ritual where he lunges to grab anyone’s ID badge.

“When these behaviours happen, if they’re not addressed, they just get worse,” Boisvert said. “The hospital told us that, even if the government came up with funding, they’re not sure if they would release him. It might be another six months … They’re not addressing his behaviours. They’re just sedating him. He’s just staying there and getting worse and worse.”

The family estimates it’s costing $2,000 a day for Jean-Marc to stay at the hospital.

The hospital has been unable to provide the intensive Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) that Boisvert says is the only thing that has helped Jean-Marc’s behaviour. He is a regular source of hospital “Code White” security calls and the hospital has warned that police might be needed if he becomes too violent.

Meanwhile, the wait list continues to grow. At the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year, 23,900 adults with developmental disabilities had requested help with supportive housing. That was 1,500 more than there were last November, when this newspaper first told Jean-Marc’s story.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity.

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman