Access Community Services Inc. began as a response to the movement away from the institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities. Access opened its first group home on March 1, 1979 in Port Hope. In the late seventies individuals involved with Port Hope/Cobourg and District Association and the Ontario Association for the Mentally Retarded (now called Community Living), D’Arcy Place Development Centre, and the Federation of L’Arche came together to discuss ways of best serving the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities living in Northumberland County. This group eventually evolved into Access Community Services Inc.
Access’ first group home house reflected the young agency’s mandate to provide accommodation for people currently living in a family setting in the local community and for those being discharged from facilities in the first phase of downsizing. Within the year, Access added two more houses and started what was then called the Apartment Program.
In 1981 Access agreed to operate the homes of St. Hugh’s House. St. Hugh’s already had a twenty-six year history in Port Hope and an even longer one if its origin in Aurora. For Access, assuming responsibility for St. Hugh’s was a major challenge. The approach eventually taken was to duplex the house into two separate homes and to begin the process of moving long-time residents out to smaller homes.
In 1982 Access accepted responsibility for sponsoring Northumberland’s Adult Protective Services Program (now called Community Advocacy Services) which provided case management and advocacy services for vulnerable adults with developmental disabilities. Later, the Apartment Program was reconstituted as the Supported Independent Living Program. This service supports people to develop the skills to live more autonomously.
Further expansion began in 1985. As part of the next phase of the Ministry’s plan to integrate more persons in the community, Access was asked to assist in providing placement for fourteen individuals. When all was completed, Access not only had fourteen new faces but a vastly increased staff and double the number of houses.
Throughout the eighties, nineties and into the new millennium, Access has put a renewed emphasis on community involvement. The agency now operates a variety of clubs and activities including a bowling league, day trips, and dances. Access continued to promote community integrations and partnerships.
In 2007, Access, in partnership with the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Community Network of Specialized Care, opened 2 treatment beds. The treatment beds provide enhanced specialized services to individuals. This program offers an opportunity to meet the integration and participation in community settings.
In October of 2008, Access opened a new fully accessible residential location in the Port Hope area. Access now has 8 residential group homes.
Access has developed closer liaison with other professionals and has sought out new and comprehensive ways of serving people. This has included working closely with psychiatrists and other mental health personnel, and with behavior therapists. It is this agency’s intention to continue to explore creative options that will improve the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities.
Over the years, Access has been committed to providing a warm and nurturing environment for all people. This focus is directly related to a strong sense of the values that motivated the founders. These values, this philosophy, continue to be the foundation that support the new direction the agency is taking and govern the day-to-day functioning of the agency.