The delay in the closure of the Valley View Centre (VVC) is good news — but not for the reasons many are claiming.
The VVC — a home for individuals with intellectual disabilities — was slated for closure by the province in 2012.
The last of the facility’s remaining 184 residents were initially expected to be transitioned out by 2016, but the time frame was extended to the end of March, 2018 on Thursday.
When news broke that the VVC’s closure would be bumped back two years to better facilitate the transition process for its remaining residents, members of the community took to social media with a celebratory tone.
As there has been throughout the entire process, people supportive of the extension were split into two camps: those who proudly declared that this was good news for the residents, who will continue to be institutionalized in the interim; and those who celebrated because this likely means that layoffs will be slower to come to those employees remaining at the VVC.
In the former case, the reasoning for opposing the closure of the centre is in the least misguided and at its worst disingenuous; in the latter, it is outright selfish — and disadvantageous for the residents.
I intend to address both points, but first and most important is to address those who are opposed to the centre’s closure because it will mean the loss of their jobs.The VVC stopped admitting residents in 2002. At that point, many active and former politicians have been happy to tell the Times-Herald, the closure of the centre was almost assumed to be imminent.
Instead of announcing the closure of the centre 12 years ago, the government of the time passed the buck, and so it fell to the Sask. Party to pull the trigger. As established, the announcement of closure was made — to considerable uproar — in 2012.
At first, the outrage was originating as much from the family of individual residents as it was from employees of the centre.
A campaign, named VVC Matters, was launched to protest the centre’s closure. But over time, as the consultation process proceeded and news about the procedures in place began to surface — including the fact that each resident will have their own, tailored transition and support plan designed by family members, support workers and others — the opposition from family appeared to wane.
VVC Matters has remained, however, with some of its most vocal members — such as Rhonda Derby, who has been quoted often in the Times-Herald — notably being on staff at the centre.
It is perhaps unsurprising that employees of the centre would protest the closure of it. But to mask their self-interest and the desire to keep their jobs with genuine care for the residents is an action more worthy of outrage than the closure of the centre itself.
I contend that employees of the VVC are hiding self-interest behind the mask of concern because the facts overwhelmingly support deinstitutionalization for people afflicted with intellectual disabilities.
There are countless studies on the topic, many readily available for anybody to read. Their findings are unquestionably clear.
In 2001, a paper entitledBehavioural Outcomes of Deinstitutionalization for People with Intellectual Disabilities that analyzed 37 studies on the topic found 26 of those studies showed improvement for people with such disabilities who transitioned into community living. Of those 26 studies, 19 showed “statistically significant” improvement.
The same paper showed that only six studies showed a deterioration in behaviours, two with significant results.
In 2005, a study of 300 institutionalized residents in New Jersey — 150 moving into community living and 150 remaining in the institution — showed that while the people who left the institution showed “no change in cognition, communication and social skills,” the individuals who remained had regressed in all three areas.
The study also showed that people who had transitioned “significantly improved self-care skills.”
That study looked at residents of an average age of 52. The VVC houses residents at an average age of 59.
Also misguided is the argument that the length of stay in a facility should necessarily dictate whether someone should remain institutionalized.
Countless studies looked at individuals who had been institutionalized for long periods of time, from 26 to 32 years on average, and all of them reported positive results after the residents transitioned.
Particularly convincing: a 2001 study by O’Brien, Thesing, Tuck and Capie that states, “the majority of staff (75 per cent) and family members (73 per cent) reported a positive change in the deinstitutionalization of individuals.”
Frankly, there is more than enough scientific basis to utterly demolish any argument that the residents are better off remaining institutionalized. With that in mind, the question must be asked that if the centre remains open, cui bono?
Is it a coincidence that, as the process continues, the most vocal opponents of the closure of the VVC are its employees and those few people who haven’t been involved enough in the process to properly inform themselves of the facts?
Keeping the Valley View Centre open may be good for Moose Jaw’s economy and for the employees who continue to collect pay cheques for working there, but it is preventing the residents from participating in a process that has been proven, time and again by more than two dozen studies, to improve their lives.
It’s time Moose Jaw start thinking less with its chequebook and more with the compassion befitting this situation and the people who will be directly impacted.
Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann