Several shovels hit the dirt on Tuesday at the official groundbreaking for the new Centre of Excellence that will include the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.
Located on Red Deer Polytechnic’s campus, the $22.4-million, one-of-a-kind facility will bring together professionals with experience in abuse, addictions and mental health in one building.
Abuse survivor and project supporter Sheldon Kennedy thanked Premier Jason Kenney for “quarterbacking” the project.
Kenney, who was among those who picked up a shovel, said people must do everything in their power to prevent child abuse in all its forms.
“To do that we need to empower youth and kids so they know that there are organizations where they can get help. And this centre will do just that, changing the way central Alberta responds to abuse. It will work collectively with partners across the region to make sure every kid’s needs are met,” Kenney said to the crowd that included community donors to the project.
He said statistics show that as many as one in three kids may be victims of abuse at some time.
“Just in North America alone there are between, 100,000 to 300,000 youth and children who are sexually exploited every year and that’s just what we know from reports to authorities,” Kenney said.
The three-storey, 66,000-square-foot facility, to be constructed by Eagle Builders, is expected to be finished by the summer of 2023.
In addition to being the new home of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, it will include the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, and Alberta Health Services: Red Deer Child and Youth Addiction and Mental Health Outpatient Clinic; and the Step Up Step Down youth live-in addiction and mental health program.
Located next to the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre on land leased from RDP for $1 a year, the centre will connect with many of RDP’s programs, from nursing and psychology to education and early learning and child care, to provide students with learning opportunities.
The child advocacy centre has been operating in a temporary location since 2017. The idea for the centre initially grew out of an effort in 2015 to provide more mental health support to children and youth after the suicide of Lindsey More, and others.
“This all started actually at Lindsey’s funeral. There were about six suicides in and around that time, and the business people at the funeral said we have to do something to help our youth,” said Rick More, Lindsey’s dad, who is a member of the advocacy centre’s board of directors.
He said Lindsey hid her depression, and when her family found out, they didn’t know what to do. But the new centre will have all the services youth need under one roof, and it will be a health care model for the rest of Canada.
“When she tried to reach out, it didn’t work. We can’t have that happening to our kids.”
To learn more about the work of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre visit: www.centralalbertacac.ca.