Desperate need for caring trained professionals

I, too, am saddened to hear of RDC’s decision to discontinue the Disability and Community Studies Program (DACS).

Re. May 25 letter from Lawrence Cardinal, headlined Money may not solve problems of the disabled but caring will:

I, too, am saddened to hear of RDC’s decision to discontinue the Disability and Community Studies Program (DACS).

Cardinal is right: there is a desperate need for trained professionals in this field.

The DACS program represented hope for me — I have two handicapped sons.

I live in hope that one day Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) will recognize the desperate need for qualified, trained and skilled personnel at the entry-level positions in this field. Entry level-positions pertain to the staff that actually work with my sons.

I live in hope that this field will someday be recognized as the profession it is by our government.

I live in hope that these same people – who work hands-on with my sons – will be paid accordingly, so that they may make a long-term commitment to this career choice.

To date, my experience has been that working frontline with my sons only provides a port of entry for people who have completed their DAC program.

Working in supervisory, management or PDD positions provides much higher salaried positions with benefits and the opportunity to scale the ladder of success.

The positions with my sons are left to caring people who are willing to work for considerably less pay with no increment system in place.

This means longtime staff, in frontline positions, get paid almost exactly the same amount as the “newbie” off the street.

This creates low morale and chronic staff turnover.

In Cardinal’s letter he also presented a very popular misconception of society, community and Michener Centre.

“Things have improved from the way it used to be when a person with a disability was locked up and hidden from society . . . .”

My eldest son was assessed by the team of professionals at the Glenrose Hospital in 1977.

At the end of the assessment I was told he was “irreversibly mentally retarded and it would be in his best interest to be institutionalized.”

I wasn’t strong enough to make that sacrifice for him.

In 1977 Michener Centre was at its zenith, recognized throughout North America for its progressive and innovative approach in the field of disabilities. It was a community.

This community offered everything — a psych. nursing program, a school staffed by teachers, wood-working programs, greenhouses and a craft shop (where they could sell their finished products), medical services including a hospital, doctors, nurses, full dental services and a fully operational X-ray and lab.

All services were specifically designed to accommodate the various needs represented in the Michener community.

One Michener Centre dentist invented a special curled toothbrush and paste for individuals who needed their teeth brushed by another person and it is still in use today.

Michener Centre provided speech, occupational and physical therapies on site with no waiting time for the individual in need. There was a fully equipped fire station. There was even a chapel and full-time pastor on site to care for their spiritual needs.

The year 1977 also introduced the Roland Michener Recreation Centre with all amenities to this community and the community at large.

Not only has this community been systematically eroded, but it was radically downsized with no apparent long term plan in place for living outside of this safe and nurturing community. The profession itself, has also been systematically eroded and devalued by the same bureaucrats.

It is heartening to hear a new graduate’s idealistic opinions expressed in such a well-written letter.

The ideals presented in the letter may actually come to fruition but, most assuredly, not in my lifetime.

Lily Breland

Red Deer