08/26/2013 09:23 EDT | Updated 10/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Sask. government to build transition house for displaced residents of care home

MOOSE JAW, Sask. - The Saskatchewan government says it has accepted all 14 recommendations of a report to help people with mental disabilities move from a 24-hour care institution into community-based services.

Social Services Minister June Draude made the announcement Monday in Moose Jaw about the future of residents of Valley View Centre.

Draude also announced that the government will spend $1.2 million to build a transition house that will house five residents.

The minister says the residence will provide assessment and short-term stabilization supports as well as supports for individuals transitioning to their future home.

“It’s the first of what I’d like to see across Saskatchewan because, right now, if somebody’s living in a home and they have an intellectual disability they really don’t have a lot of choices about where we can send them to,” said Draude.

“It’s a new opportunity here in our province to look at our people with intellectual disabilities with new eyes.”

Valley View Centre currently has close to 200 residents and is slated to close in 2016. The Saskatchewan Party government has not said where the other residents will go nor what will happen to the 500 staff who work there.

June Avivi, family group co-chair for Valley View, was pleased with the plan. Her 57-year-old son has lived at the centre for more than 40 years and loves it.

But Avivi said the number of residents is dropping and the building — which was constructed in 1955 — is falling apart. She said it’s important to make a plan prior to a crisis.

“I’m not saying this is an easy decision on anyone’s part," Avivi said. "It’s a decision that had to be made and we’re fortunate — and I can’t repeat this often enough — that we’re working with a committee that represents not just government, but community and families.”

Moose Jaw Mayor Barb Higgins said she wonders when the Saskatchewan Party government "will actually start to follow the recommendations that they’ve publicly accepted."

One recommendation is “increase public awareness regarding community inclusion.”

“While we had a groundbreaking ceremony (on Monday), there was no public awareness, no communications and no education carried out as recommended in the report,” said Higgins, who wasn't invited to the announcement.

“This does not build a real solid foundation for community inclusion.”

Higgins also said the provincial government chose an area for the transition residence "less than 100 metres away from an already proposed group home.”

That's contrary to another recommendation, which suggests that “housing and supports should be dispersed across the community rather than in a congregated setting.”

“The provincial government may not view two group homes in the neighbourhood as congregating services. I’m sure it will not be viewed that way by others,” said Higgins.

“When you talk about the closure and the change to the model of service delivery, that undoubtedly will impact our community."

Jacalyn Luterbach, president of CUPE 600-3 and a caregiver, has worked at Valley View for close to 30 years. She said, on average, residents have lived at the centre for 41 1/2 years.

“There is no plan to what’s going to happen to the employees and not really a definite plan for what’s going to happen to the residents themselves,” said Luterbach. “They didn’t confront the frontline workers when they were developing the framework and recommendations.

Draude said there could be changes to the plan.

“It’s like anything ... and the needs may change so I’m going to be watching that, but I’m really confident with the steering committee’s dedication and their commitment,” said Draude.

She added 65 per cent of Valley View residents wish to stay in Moose Jaw while 35 per cent want to move across Saskatchewan.

(Moose Jaw Times-Herald, CHAB)