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Kendall Worth: A letter to Minister Randy Delorey with two simple ideas that will help poor people tremendously

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax), January 12, 2019 

Dear Minister Randy Delorey,

As you may already know, I write articles in the Nova Scotia Advocate about poverty and the need for welfare reform in Nova Scotia. Some of my articles relate to the mental and physical health of income assistance recipients. 

People in my community believe that some changes for the better can happen through your department of Health and Wellness.

Anyway, Minister Delorey, as you know the Nova Scotia Health Authority has a policy saying “when a patient has to go into the hospital for day surgery and certain other procedures they are required to bring someone with them to accompany them following surgery.” 

Then that same policy says “If no one is there to drive them or accompany them home following surgery, then the surgery gets cancelled.” 

It is well understood in the community that this policy is in place for the patients’ safety. I have written about how making those arrangements can be a problem for income assistance recipients who live the life of loneliness and social isolation.

See also: Kendall Worth: How poor people looking out for one another saves the day after day surgery gets cancelled

Anyway, Minister Delorey, the first idea I want to introduce to you in this letter is an idea for a program for when an income assistance recipient needs someone to go to the hospital with them.

When a welfare recipient can prove they cannot make those arrangements, the program I am suggesting here can match the welfare recipient up with a student who is studying social work at Dalhousie or match them up with an NSCC student at the School of Health and Human Services.  

In my recent story, My chat with Alec Stratford of the NS College of Social Workers, the idea for a program like this came up again. Alec Stratford agreed that a program like this would benefit people on income assistance.

I also suggest that hospitals run a special food bank program for when income assistance recipients need access to special dietary needs while recovering from surgery.

The second issue I want to write about is the need for mental health drop-ins. 

There really needs to be a mental health drop-in that every income assistance recipient who lives with mental health problems can access.

What we currently have here in Halifax is not what people I talk to in the community is not exactly what they are looking for. 

See also: Kendall Worth: We really need a 24/7 drop in centre to tackle problems of social isolation

Sometimes such a place requires a referral from your doctor or other mental health professional. I know people who tried to get accepted into such a program and even after being referred by the appropriate sources, they still could not get accepted into that program.  

Other places offer no opportunity for people to have structure in their day while going there. It is just set up as a place to go and hang out and that is not what every income assistance recipient who also has mental health issues is looking for.

Overall people are complaining that the mental health system is getting just as bad as income assistance. 

I hope that your department can address this.

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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