Michener Centre supporters are hopeful a solution is possible to keep beds open at the facility for developmentally disabled people.
On Thursday, Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees made public their idea to keep some buildings on the south side of Michener Centre open to residents, in addition to the centre’s group homes.
The province has not approved the plan.
“We’re very pleased Mary Anne has stepped forward to speak on behalf of the families. We’ve always felt that she understands our needs. Whether the government will listen, we’ll have to see. I believe a compromise can be reached,” said society president Bill Lough on Friday.
In March, the province announced that buildings on the north and south sides will close and residents relocated. Fifty of them, who are medically fragile, are to be moved to seniors care facilities.
Of the 224 people still living at Michener, 104 will be supported in 23 Michener Services residential group homes.
Since then the AUPE, which represents Michener workers, the Society of Parents and Friends of Michener Centre, Red Deer city council, and many more Central Albertans have been lobbying for the centre to stay open.
On Thursday, Jablonski presented a petition with 15,744 signatures to the Alberta legislature to keep Michener Centre open. In the spring, opposition parties presented 8,500 signatures.
Lough said the province may argue the petition has been driven by the union, or that those 24,000 Albertans are limited to Central Alberta, but he said those are the people who understand what Michener means to residents and their families.
“They understand Michener. Their voices, to me, actually speak stronger because they are very familiar with what Michener is, represents and has done for many individuals.”
He said Michener families just want what was promised in the Moving Ahead report in 2008. It said that no resident would be forced to leave the centre and as the population declines, the north side would be closed and residents would be moved to buildings on the south side.
Instead, Friends of Michener say they were blindsided by the closure announcement in March.
“We’ve always said we want a compromise. We always just wanted to be at the table, the society, to have our voice heard, to sit down and come up with a plan,” Lough said.
On Thursday in the legislature, the NDP revealed documents they say show the provincial government hired a public relations firm “to fabricate a rationale” for the closure of Michener Centre a month-and-a-half after the closure was announced.
“I just think it’s a sad statement that we couldn’t have an open and honest discussion,” Lough said.
He hoped the partnership between Jablonski and the AUPE will open up dialogue with the province.
“The step Ms. Jablonski has taken has created that first step, I think, which we’re pleased with.”
Jablonski and the AUPE is still determining the number of residents that could live on the south site.