05/10/2013 03:42 EDT | Updated 07/10/2013 05:12 EDT

14 recommendations made to help mentally disabled move as institution closes

MOOSE JAW, Sask. - Fourteen recommendations are being made to help mentally disabled people as the Saskatchewan government closes one of the last remaining institutions in Canada.

A report released Friday outlines ways to make it easier for nearly 200 people living in the Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw to move.

The recommendations include providing opportunities for the residents to keep relationships with peers — something particularly important, given that the average length of time current residents have lived at Valley View is 41 1/2 years.

"The maintenance of those relationships will be critical to the emotional well-being of the residents as they move to new community homes," the report says.

Social Services Minister June Draude says efforts will be made to keep people together.

"Some of the residents of Valley View have very good friends, so they may want to make sure that we have a group of four, or sometimes it might even be five, depending if there's a group of individuals that have spent a lot of their life together and would like to be together," said Draude.

"Sometimes they're like a family group and they would like to be together, so we'll try to work with individuals in that way."

The 197 residents of Valley View will be moved to different types of community-based housing depending on their needs. That could include licensed private homes that provide for people with intellectual disabilities or group homes with staff to provide care, supervision and support.

The average resident age is 58.9 years and 80.5 per cent of residents are more than 50 years old.

The report says the housing they go to should be dispersed across the community, not just in one neighbourhood, and the housing should be indistinguishable from other homes.

Other recommendations include making sure transportation is available, expanding crisis response services and ensuring they have access to meaningful activities.

The report says access to specialized services and supports is required "at a level not easily attainable in community-based services." It says if that access is diminished, then there is potential for individuals to "deteriorate in community."

It also says "many of the individuals transitioning out of (Valley View) may require transitional services and supports over and above what is typical in the community-based system."

"When transitioning individuals, timing and an understanding of the individual will be critical to successful transition. There is no magic formula that will develop a specific transition process," said the report prepared by a committee that included family members and Social Services officials.

"Some individuals will succeed with rapid transitions moving from one place to the next immediately, while others will require long and well-formulated plans."

Draude says she'll review the recommendations and a transition plan will be announced this summer.

The Valley View Centre is a sprawling complex of buildings built in 1955 for 1,500 people. But it is deteriorating and the practice has been to move away from institutional care to help people with intellectual disabilities.

The centre stopped admitting new residents in 2002.

The Saskatchewan government announced last year that it would close Valley View by 2016.

Draude says she knows there has been some fear about the closure for residents and their families.

"Maybe this report is still not going to give the final feeling of 'OK, it's going to be all right,' but as we present our report back to the committee and to the families, I think they'll then understand that this is what's going to be happening," said Draude.

"I know that there was a lot of angst with families when we first started...and the Valley View committee has just been working constantly and very carefully with each family to help understand their concerns of each individual."

— By Jennifer Graham in Regina