Care taken in Michener closure

I am writing to bring some clarity to the closure of the large residential facilities on the north and south sites of the property at Michener Services.

I am writing to bring some clarity to the closure of the large residential facilities on the north and south sites of the property at Michener Services.

As many of your readers know, the smaller group homes located in the neighbourhood on the southern edge of the Michener site, as well as those located elsewhere in Red Deer, will remain open.

The decision to close the large buildings and transition Michener Services to a group-home-only model was not taken lightly. I know that Michener is a place many have called home for a very long time, and there are emotional ties that go back for decades for some of the individuals who live there.

That’s why we are taking a very careful, sensitive approach to transition planning for every individual who will be leaving Michener. A transition team is working directly with individuals and their families to help them plan their moves.

First, they discuss where they might want to live. They have options all across Alberta, as we fund service providers in more than 150 communities. This has given some families an opportunity to live closer together. In September, an individual moved from Michener to Edmonton to be closer to family.

Once the individual and their family have chosen a community, they can then begin looking at the options available in that community. They would meet with service providers, visit homes and talk to staff.

After they choose a home, staff members from the new home visit the individual at Michener, so they can get to know and learn more about him or her as a person, including likes and dislikes, the meaning of gestures if he or she is non-verbal, preferred activities, etc.

After the move, POD Central will monitor the new services to ensure everything is going smoothly.

It is important to note that Michener staff are available before, during, and after the move to help.

POD Central remains just a phone call away if the new service provider is experiencing any difficulty, or if the family or guardian has any concerns.

So far, the first two individuals to move are doing very well.

At least four more moves are planned by the end of the year.

I respect that some families are not ready to begin this process. It is a change, and change can be difficult.

At this time, we’re working with the families who are ready to do so, and we continue to provide as much information as we can to all families. Of the approximately 120 people who will be leaving Michener, 69 have completed transition plans and 32 more plans are in progress.

Although our timeline was to close the large buildings on the Michener grounds by the spring of 2014, I have always said that nobody will move until an appropriate new home is available for them. We are currently working with our service providers to create new spaces in Central Alberta, Edmonton and Calgary.

As the minister responsible for Services for Persons with Disabilities, I need to ensure our programs reflect modern best practices. Alberta is one of the last provinces in Canada to operate a residential facility like Michener, and in Alberta today, there are many excellent disability service providers in communities throughout the province.

I remain confident that this is the right thing to do both for the people we support now, and those we will be supporting in the future.

Frank Oberle

Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities