PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. — More than a year after a British Columbia mother ended her desperate struggle to care for her autistic son — killing him before taking her own life — a coroner's jury has made 25 recommendations to prevent similar tragedies.
Angie Robinson hanged herself in her Prince Rupert home in April 2014, after giving her 16-year-old son Robert a lethal dose of the anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam.
The jury heard the Ministry of Children and Family Development had received nine reports about incidents of child-safety protection, but closed the mother's case in December 2013 because there were no new events.
Among its recommendations, the jury called for the ministry to provide child safety training to social workers dealing with special needs children to identify when to involve child services.
It also called for a review of the autism funding cap of $6,000 per year for children over age 6 and consider increasing funding to ensure higher need children are being accommodated.
The jury also recommended that the ministry ensure caregivers of special needs children, living with conditions such a mental health issues or domestic violence, are assessed to determine appropriate support requirements.
Some of the recommendations focused on services for First Nations families, including that a protocol be established to ensure the First Nations Health Authority is involved in planning for aboriginal children and youth with special needs.
The jury also asked the ministry to consult with First Nations and appropriate aboriginal agencies when planning for indigenous special needs kids.
Other recommendations dealt with the lack of support services in remote and rural areas such as the northern coast community of Prince Rupert. The jury asked the ministry to ensure autism training in such areas is provided at no cost to a child's funding allowance, and to ensure that transportation costs and availability are part of planning for youth with special needs.
The inquest held in Prince Rupert heard the mother was battling depression and a lack of support when she killed herself and her severely disabled son.
The sister of the dead woman, Michelle Watson, testified about the 39-year-old's mental health struggles, problems with a past abusive relationship, and difficulties in finding services or receiving support while raising Robert.
The teen was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and Watson told the jury he would often try to hurt himself by butting his head into walls or breaking windows if he was startled.
A relief worker who handled Robert's case told the jury the youth was generally happy.
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