Parents of intellectually challenged Saskatchewan woman turn to legislature after 36 days in jail

Parents of intellectually challenged Saskatchewan woman turn to legislature after 36 days in jail

Saskatchewan woman moved to hospital pending resolution of charges.

Saskatchewan spouses Barbara and Barry Stuckey

Barbara and Barry Stuckey hold a photo of their daughter, Jessica, 25. They are asking the provincial government to help get their intellectually disabled daughter the support she needs.

The parents of an intellectually-challenge woman in Saskatchewan who spent over a month in jail demand action from the Saskatchewan government.

Barbara and Barry Stuckey want the Ministry of Social Services to help get their daughter Jessica, 25, the help she requires. The two were at the legislature on Tuesday.

Jessica was placed in jail at the Pine Grove Correctional Centre in November and spent 36 days there before being moved to a hospital in North Battleford.

She was diagnosed with Smith-Magenus syndrome, which affects facial features and force some delayed speech, sleep disturbances and behavioural problems. She has been assessed as having the intellectual capacity of a six-year-old.

Before COVID-19 hit, the parents said Jessica lived independently in Melville but the pandemic broke her routine.

Barbara says Jessica started calling 911 repeatedly.

“She went to mental health wanting to see someone there and they told her they couldn’t help her unless she was threatening to harm herself or others so she said, ‘I’m going to kill you.'”

She was charged with uttering threats and mischief.

Barbara said Jessica should not have been placed at Pine Grove, but said the psychiatric hospital did not have room for her.

“At first she was not getting medication. She doesn’t operate well without her medication, so it was scary. I was expecting to be told she was beaten but the prisoners must have seen in her she could not help it,” Barbara said.

Barbara said she is “scared and angry” about her daughter’s situation: “I miss my girl.”

Saskatchewan woman Jessica Stuckey

Jessica Stuckey, who suffers from a developmental syndrome that has left her with the intellectual capacity of a six-year-old, was held in remand at the Pine Grove Correctional Facility for 36 days before being transferred to the psychiatric hospital in North Battleford at the end of 2022.

Jessica was declared unfit for trial but her charges are still pending. The Saskatchewan Review Board heard her case last week and their decision is expected in the near future. Meanwhile, she remains in North Battleford at the hospital.

Barbara said her psychiatrist recommended she be placed with Creative Options Regina (COR). She said the request is in its third year and has been told it is a funding issue for Jessica.

Jessica’s psychiatrist in North Battleford says she will require constant supervision once she is released, Barbara says.

“What I’d like to see is her get the funding and come to COR and have a life,” Barbara said. “I always wanted her to have a life, an independent life, where she is happy and has things to do like everyone else. That’s what I’d like to see happen.”

Possible government intervention

The government apprehended Jessica and her sister at a young age and they were adopted by the Barbara and Barry Stuckey.

Social services critic Meara Conway says the government and the ministry are responsible for Jessica’s situation because they had a relationship with her roughly two decades and could have intervened.

“It’s shocking that this happened. It’s even more shocking because the ministry had a worker assigned to this case throughout. They could have stepped in and supported her in the community. The fact that there has been no action from the ministry around these completely exceptional events is shocking to me,” Conway said.

Conway believes Jessica’s detention at Pine Grove was a mistake: “It’s an absolutely inappropriate place for her to be.”

Conway says the government could have supported Jessica by getting her care in the community as recommended by her psychiatrist. Instead, she says, the calls to 911, involvement in the justice system, incarceration and now care in the psychiatric hospital costs the government much more.

“Funding her through an agency that would support her needs would be an absolute drop in the bucket compared to the cost of failing to support Jessica.”

The ministry’s response

In a statement to CBC on Tuesday, Bob Martinook, executive director of community living service delivery with the ministry, wrote that while “the Ministry of Social Services can’t speak to case specifics, we want Jessica Stuckey and her family to know we understand their concerns.”

Martinook says the more than 6,000 people with intellectual disabilities are supported through services and day programs: “The aim of these programs is to support people to live as independently as possible within their own communities. We partner with over 135 third-party service providers across the province.”

Martinook says services are voluntary. He said the ministry works “collaboratively with them through assessment, analysis and planning to identify their service needs.”

“We respect their right to make their own decisions and support individuals to do so. Where assistance is required, that planning process broadens to include the individual and a core group of people who know, care and are committed to supporting them,” Martinook wrote.

“Planning with the person is an ongoing process with regular reviews to ensure appropriate supports are being provided.”

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