Napanee Guide - LHIN backs acquired brain injury home plan

Published on May 5th, 2011 in the Napanee Guide

It was news that brought tears of joy to Hugh and Rosemary Finlay's eyes.

Southeast Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) officials announced they will write to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to seek support to build the Napanee Acquired Brain Injury and Rehab Home.

The news, which came out of a meeting Friday, April 29, means the Finlay family is a significant step closer to seeing the construction of a facility where their son Scott can get good care, along with 11 other people in the Kingston/Napanee area living with brain injuries.

"The LHIN is a partner now," said Hugh Finlay, his voice cracking with emotion. "It's great, after working all these years."

Finlay said he's been working to see a home for people living with brain injuries ever since Scott suffered his back when he was a top skier and was being considered for a spot alongside the Crazy Canucks on the national team. Finlay's dream ended, and his life irrevocably changed when he crashed at the Canadian Men's Downhill Ski Championships in Lake Louise, Alta. in 1978.

Ever since, he has lived with his parents in their Newburgh home. But both Hugh and Rosemary are in their 80s and fear they won't be able to care for Scott much longer.

Georgina Thompson, chairperson of the Southeast LHIN's board of directors, attended the meeting Friday, and told the Finlay family they now have the LHIN's support.

The meeting was set up by MPP Randy Hillier and was the third in a series of meetings the Progressive Conservative representative for Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington has orchestrated. It took place at the former Lenadco building on Bridge Street, which is the proposed site for the brain injury facility.

The support of the LHIN won't be official until the organization's board of directors meets May 30 in Northbrook and can vote to approve sending a letter to the ministry. However, Thompson said there's "no doubt in my mind whatsoever" the board will approve the recommendation.

Thompson said Southeast LHIN officials decided to back the project after doing some research on their own and determining there is a significant need for a home to support people living with acquired brain injuries (ABI) in the area.

"We have the largest population of ABI folks in the province in the Southeast LHIN area," Thompson said, although she could not quote exact numbers. "We are in the process of finding exactly how many are out there that we don't know about."

Thompson said the letter LHIN officials intend to write to the ministry will likely go out in June. After that, ministry officials will likely report back to the LHIN with questions, Thompson said.

"I'm sure they'll have questions of their own. This is the time we have to find out where exactly we'll get the funding from."

Although there's no timeline for the project yet, she's confident it can be done in about a year.

"I'm optimistic," she said. "We're not building a new building; we're looking at some existing sites that are already there."

Thompson said despite families' requests to have the facility built at the Lenadco site, the LHIN will still follow its normal procedure to investigate a number of possible sites, before making any decisions.

"While that is one of the options, we can't say that is the final option," she said.

Hugh Finlay said he's confident the project will go ahead because public support continues to grow.

Napanee town councillors voted to support the project in principle at their Tuesday, April 26 meeting.

Plus, as of Monday, about $250,000 had been raised through a fundraising campaign, Finlay said. That campaign has been supported by members of the national ski community who knew Scott well. A committee formed to fundraise for the home, headed by Dr. John McKinney, of Napanee, has a goal of raising $800,000, money that would support construction of the home and ideally reduce operational costs once it's up.

"The more we raise, it cuts down the government costs," said Finlay. "We're not money hungry, we want to help to give these 11, 12 people a good home."

Thompson said the case the LHIN will make to the Ministry for the home will be based on need, not on the actual funds raised. However, she believes the money raised will just make the ministry's decision easier.

"It sure helps," she said. "We'd have to send (the money) to the capital costs branch of the ministry. The folks that have been donated have been a godsend. It's amazing."

Finlay said the news that LHIN officials are supporting the home was equally thrilling to other people who hope to have a family member live in the home. He said 11 other families in the Kingston-Napanee area are advocating for this home, as well.

"I've called a lot of other parents already and they're very excited too," he said. "They had already given up hope."

He added that many positive things have come out of this whole story. The home could create some economic spinoffs, because it could employ up to 23 people, a number Thompson agreed with, considering the home would be staffed 24 hours a day.

Finlay also noted the project has opposing political parties working together, too.

Both Hillier and Kingston and the Islands MPP John Gerretsen, a Liberal, attended Friday's meeting to show their support.

Finlay said he was grateful for the efforts of both men.

"It's great when two guys work from the heart, not for politics," he said.