Published on August 26, 2013
(From left) Saskatchewan Association for Community Living President Gloria Mahussier, Minister of Social Services June Draude and Valley View Centre (VVC) Family Group Co-Chair June Avivi turn sod for a new government-operated residence at a provincial government press conference on Monday. Draude also announced the government accepted all 14 recommendations of the VVC Transition Steering Committee.
Times-Herald photo by Lisa Goudy
Published on August 26, 2013
Valley View Centre staff members and community members listen to the provincial government's announcement of accepting all 14 recommendations of the VVC Transition Steering Committee on Monday. The government also broke ground for a new residence at 28 Brigham Road in Westheath.
Times-Herald photo by Lisa Goudy
VVC staff, city not invited to announcement and groundbreaking
The mayor of Moose Jaw and Valley View Centre (VVC) staff weren’t invited to the provincial government’s announcement regarding the future of VVC residents.
“I received a phone call from the Minister (of Social Services) on Thursday so we talked about it then, but I never did receive the advisory or an invite to be there,” said Mayor Deb Higgins. “(I heard) in the community that there was some type of an announcement and people were asking me what it was … As mayor of the City of Moose Jaw I find a number of troubling issues coming out of (Monday’s) announcement by the provincial government.”
On Monday the provincial government held a press conference to announce its acceptance of all 14 of the VVC Transition Steering Committee’s recommendations.
June Draude, social services minister, June Avivi, VVC family group co-chair and Gloria Mahussier, president of the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) broke ground following the announcement at the site of a new provincially-operated home for VVC residents to transition to future homes.
“They wouldn’t tell us where the press conference was and we weren’t invited,” said VVC employee Rhonda Derby at the conference. “There’s nothing concrete. I don’t believe in this. This is one home and (Draude) talks about this being the start. Well let’s see the whole plan.”
Draude said the home will “meet or exceed” the level of care at VVC. She said the home would have five units to house five people. The stay could be temporary to serve as a transition before moving to another location.
“We need people to know that they’re individuals, that we’re looking at their special needs, that they all are contributing to Saskatchewan,” said Draude. “That’s the big part of what we (did on Monday), making sure people are part of being citizens of the province.”
Currently there are just under 200 residents living at VVC that need to move out by 2016. VVC employs approximately 500 staff members plus families who will be affected by the VVC closure. VVC was built in 1955.
Draude said the new home would provide support for people with intellectual disabilities.
“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.”
Draude said the first step was to ensure family members knew the residents could move somewhere secure and stable.
The home is the “first of its kind in Saskatchewan.”
“As we move along there could be changes. 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 VVC residents wish to stay in Moose Jaw while 35 per cent want to move across Saskatchewan.
“We’ve had the opportunity to speak with the mayor and the planning team and talk about how we can move forward,” said Draude.
However, Higgins and VVC staff members said they have concerns with the announcement.
Higgins said Draude accepting the steering committee’s recommendations is a “good guide to the next steps.”
“While the Minister of Social Services announced acceptance of the recommendation of the transition steering committee’s report, I wonder when the provincial government will actually start to follow the recommendations that they’ve publicly accepted,” said Higgins.
In the committee’s final report, recommendation 14 is to “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. “This does not build a real solid foundation for community inclusion.”
Higgins said the provincial government chose the area in Westheath where the residence will be built, but the groundbreaking is “less than 100 meters away from an already proposed group home.”
But recommendation 2.1 states: “Housing and supports should be dispersed across the community rather than in a congregated setting.”
"This does not build a real solid foundation for community inclusion" Mayor Deb Higgins
“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. “Yes we have been asked for information about what land’s available, what group homes are located in the City of Moose Jaw, but that’s not true consultation …We are not building a solid foundation in the community or a smooth transition.”
Higgins said there were planning meetings for the city on Monday, but she, like everyone else, has been waiting for the bigger picture since the closure of VVC was announced.
“When you talk about the closure and the change to the model of service delivery, that undoubtedly will impact our community,” said Higgins.
Jacalyn Luterbach, president of CUPE 600-3 and frontline caregiver, said she has been working at VVC for close to 30 years. She said on average, residents have lived at VVC for 41 ½ 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.
“So I think we consider them to be part of our syndicate family ... and we’re very, very concerned about what’s going to happen to them.”
She added the employees haven’t received any answers for 18 months and staff are “disappointed that there isn’t any human resources plan attached to this as of yet.”
“I think it was short sighted that they didn’t involve us when they were making their recommendations and doing up the framework,” said Luterbach. “To be able to say that you’re going to be able to exceed the services that they’re receiving right now: it’s a pretty high bar. So it’s going to be interesting to see if they can achieve it, let alone beat it.”
VVC employee Marianne Neustaeter shared the same concerns.
“The actual staff that work with the residents have never been asked how they feel about it or what they feel the residents need,” said Neustaeter. “But the staff that actually work with these people, they’re the ones that know what these people need.”
Conversely, Avivi said she thinks the announcement is a positive one for the residents and families of the VVC. Her 57-year-old son has been at VVC for more than 40 years.
“Moose Jaw is his home and this is where I hope he will remain. He’s very happy at Valley View. Valley View has been his home,” she said. “The staff are parents as far as I’m concerned. They’re not just employees and we have to recognize that and that has to be part of the whole decision-making process that we are dealing with.”
However she said the numbers are dropping and the building is falling apart. She said prior to a crisis it’s important to make a plan for the future.
“I’m not saying this is an easy decision on anyone’s part. 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.”
She said Monday’s announcement was only one step of many in the process, which she compared to a jigsaw puzzle, only the pieces have to first be designed before put into place.
“We should be working towards repairing the world and that’s exactly what we’re doing here,” said Avivi. “In a small little way, in our corner in Moose Jaw, we are doing something to make the world a better place.”
Mahussier also said she was pleased with the progress.
“(VVC residents) will be able to live in homes of their choice,” she said. “All (contributing) members of society will just make Moose Jaw a better place in the province.”
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.
For a slideshow of images from the announcement and grounbreaking ceremony, go here.