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BCACL Responds to Closure of 13-bed Group Home in Vernon

The BC Association for Community Living has responded to the recently announced closure of a group home in Vernon, B.C. We have concerns with the process undertaken to close the facility. We also hold firmly to our social policy that supports a person's right to a home.

Community Living BC (CLBC) recently announced the closure of a 13-bed residential facility in Vernon. An article published in the Vernon Morning Star newspaper decried the closure: http://www.bclocalnews.com/okanagan_similkameen/vernonmorningstar/news/117833298.html

BCACL’s Position: People with developmental disabilities have the right to choose where and with whom they live. This includes the right to create a personal home environment, where choices, possessions and privacy are respected. A workplace where staff make all decisions is not a home. Institutional settings and congregate care facilities, by virtue of their size and structure, are not homes. More on our Having a Home social policy here.

Further, it is crucial that individuals and their families have a say in where and with whom they live and a full range of options are presented. A person's home should not be determined by any organizational cost-cutting policy, but rather by individual need and choice.

We must ensure that the planning for people to move out of this and other similar facilities is open and clear with a schedule and timeline that is driven by the needs and best interests of those who are moving. We developed good process with the closure of other institutions in B.C. and must use these lessons today. 60 days notice is not respectful and likely not sufficient for most of these residents. Every effort must be made to keep people in their home communities, near their natural supports and close to their friends and families. This cannot be a budget-driven process – it must be person-centered. Anything less is a breach of fundamental human rights.

Further, we are concerned with arguments put forth in the Morning Star article, which have been used for decades in support of keeping people with developmental disabilities in large, segregated facilities:

1. If someone has lived somewhere for a long time they shouldn’t move:

Moving from one place to another is part of the normal human experience and adds to our development, understanding of and contribution to our relationships and the communities within which we live. In terms of the model of service, we know that larger, congregated settings like this are abusive by their very nature – we have known this for at least 40 years when we first started moving people with high complex needs out of institutions. Large facilities like this are no longer appropriate and have not been for many years.

2. Relationships and friendships are being broken:

Moving residences does not mean severing relationships. However, it is important to ensure that the process of moving for people with developmental disabilities is sound, transparent and inclusive of the important relationships that a person has. We must be deliberate in preserving and supporting relationships for people with developmental disabilities in all our actions and planning processes.

3. Individualized support works for some, but not for others:

Individualized support and person centered planning is best practice for everyone regardless of the levels of support. There are many examples of this in BC. some of which may be viewed via this website http://microboard.org/MicroboardAction.htm

4. Some people rely on a more clinical setting:

People with high, complex medical and mental health needs have been successfully supported in small, individualized homes for many years. Supports related to medical needs can and are being provided safely in non-clinical environments.

5. 25 staff will lose their jobs if the facility is closed:

First and always, this is not about jobs, it is about people’s lives. Further, while these particular jobs may be gone others will replace them, as individuals still need support in the community.