A Call to Ensure Your Voice is Heard: Support the Return to Community and the Closure of Alberta’s last large institution for people with developmental disabilities
As you all know on March 11 the Alberta government announced the inevitable and necessary closure of Michener Centre and its plan to transition the 125 individuals living there to a life in community. This is an action that AACL, as a family organization, along with almost every other family and disability rights related organization around the world has supported for many years. The Alberta government’s decision is supported by evidence from almost 50 studies and Alberta’s long and successful efforts to return those in institutions to community as well as closing institutions. AACL is not simply interested in the closure of Alberta’s last large institution for people with developmental disabilities but in ensuring all Albertans with developmental disabilities and their families, along with those in Michener Centre have the supports they require for a good life in community. Alberta’s decision finally brings the province in alignment with the rest of Canada and much of the world.
AACL is appreciative of the many emails we’ve received in support of the government’s decision but it is far more important for those of you who agree with this decision share your support with the government by directly emailing the Premier and your MLA, by writing letters to the editor and posting your support online in response to the stories covered by the media.
Those who oppose the closure and the return to community are making their position known, whether they have a family member in the institution today or know much about community living. However the stories of those who have always lived in community or who were previously living in institutions and now live in community have not yet made their way into the media’s coverage or other public spaces.
The many thousands of us who have chosen, or fought, for our family members to live in community have always underwritten the costs of institutionalization even though the individuals served there do not vary in their needs from our family members and friends. That is, the cost of institutionalization has always consumed a larger proportion of the limited funds available to support people with developmental disabilities in Alberta. This will continue in the forthcoming year as the process of returning people to community will require an allocation of millions extra and a consequent impact on the funds available to support those living in community. AACL supports this allocation in the interests of those returning to community and their families having access to the best possible planning processes and supports to assist in their transition.
However, we are not supportive of the institution remaining open, continuing to consume an imbalance of funds with poorer outcomes than community living provides, requiring large expenditures of capital funds to maintain deteriorating buildings and threatening those in community by virtue of its existence and need to fill beds in order to survive. The only way Michener Centre can continue to exist is by having more individuals enter the walls and beds of the facilities, acquiring a continuing and increasing disproportionate amount of funding relative to the needs of the people living there, and obtaining a large infusion of capital funds, otherwise its closure is simply a matter of time given the ages of the individuals living there, the number who pass away each year and the condition of the facilities.
Remaining silent or quietly supportive of this vital Alberta government decision is not an option. We are asking those of you who support the government’s decision, a decision consistent with every provincial/state, national and international organization that represents the interests of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, Alberta’s own experiences and the research literature, to make your position known.
Now is the time to let the Premier, your MLA and the public know you support the government’s decision. AACL will continue to monitor the process of the return to community to ensure families and individuals have access to personalized planning processes and choices with respect to where they will live in community, with whom and with what supports.
Follow the links below to view the Premier’s contact information and that of every MLA in Alberta. If you need any additional information please do not hesitate to contact our office.
Thank you for considering this request. Take a moment and make a difference.
Alberta Association for Community Living