Notwithstanding COVID, there is some encouraging, good news to report on pressing, local priorities for the Red Deer area community in 2020.
During the last election, two prominent needs consistently shared by members of our community were firstly, a lack of funding for the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and secondly, harms to families and businesses relating to crime and homelessness, particularly with a hollowing out of our downtown.
I am pleased to report significant progress on both of those needs.
Red Deer Regional Hospital
In Budget 2020, the government announced a $100 million investment in our hospital. The premier said this was the first phase. This has been a long-standing need in our community and it is exciting to see our government lead and provide real and substantial commitment to our hospital.
So, what is the current status? Currently, the business plan for this investment is being developed. Working in partnership with frontline professionals in our hospital and other key stakeholders, the plan is prioritizing needs and seeking innovative, cost effective solutions with a focus on maximizing positive health outcomes for central Albertans.
Minister LaGrange and I, along with our municipal leaders, meet monthly with AHS Zone leadership to receive accountability update reports.
A focus of the plan is on developing additional capacities outside of our hospital for less complex health care needs so there is growing capacities in our hospital for more complex needs. As that capacity is developed, there is an opportunity to add services to our hospital in order of our most pressing needs.
While COVID did cause a delay, the plan will be completed in the new year and construction commenced.
Supports for Addictions and Homelessness
This government is focused on supporting individuals seeking to improve their lives, including freedom from addictions, while respecting families and businesses in our community.
This year a new “Recovery Community,” where individuals will receive treatment and support to become free from addictions was announced for central Alberta. In addition, drug court services were also announced allowing individuals committing drug related property crimes an alternate path of restitution, community service and addiction treatment. These services will begin in the new year.
Budget 2020 also announced an integrated homeless shelter for Red Deer. We are in on-going meetings with service providers and community stakeholders as this service is in development. This new shelter service must facilitate a course correction and culture change – supporting individuals working to become free of addictions and destructive lifestyles to themselves and to our community as a whole.
This shelter should be a place of hope where individuals receive support and opportunities to work towards moving out of shelter and towards self-reliance. This shelter needs to be an accountable service, not only to the individuals it serves, but also as a good neighbour to families and businesses in our community.
Looking Ahead into 2021
COVID and its destructive tide of lockdowns, orders and restrictions will recede in the New Year. The year 2021 will see the work on these local priorities progress which will bless our community in the years to come.
Ending on a personal note, as the father of two young adult sons and a teenage daughter, I have a great desire to see improved opportunities for the rising generation.
An intentional education, whether formal or informal, on the job or in the class, allows our children to move towards self-reliance.
A strong economy allows our children to apply their effort and unique talent, augmented by their own intentional education, to provide goods and services for the public benefit, while blessing themselves and their own families with increased opportunities to seek happiness as they individually see fit.
As social gathering restrictions abate in the New Year, I look forward to meeting and to serving together, including with our children and young adults where I once was, in our local primary schools and at Red Deer College.
Jason Stephan is Red Deer-South MLA.