Letter – High Prairie deserves better!

What’s going to happen to the Campus Based Treatment Centre in High Prairie? Is it closed permanently? Will it be refurbished after last November’s fire? Will it reopen?

Confusion surrounds the future of this treatment centre, which existed to provide vital and effective treatment for youths with severe behavioural issues.

That confusion is the result of mixed messages coming from the Alberta government, which runs centres like these across the province.

The government’s message to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents workers at the centre, was that it will remain closed “for the foreseeable future.” That literally means the government cannot see a future where the centre reopens.

The centre’s workers lost their jobs or were forced to transfer hundreds of kilometres away from home. The government told them the closure is permanent. Their jobs aren’t coming back.

The message to the public has been different. The government tells the public the centre is being studied and they may even make a decision by August.

Why is it taking the government nine months to decide if the centre will reopen?

If the building can’t be repaired, why not a temporary treatment centre until a new one is built?

In the meantime, High Prairie is left to suffer the negative consequences of the centre’s closure.

When fully staffed, the youth treatment centre employed more than 30 people. These are skilled workers with full time jobs who serve the community. Losing their jobs will have a significant economic impact on the town.

Let us also spare a thought for the young people who need the treatment that only these centres can provide. They now have to travel hundreds of kilometres away to get help in Edmonton or Lethbridge. There is another centre in Lac La Biche, but it’s closed until June.

What will happen to these young people? What will happen when they are torn from their families and from the communities? From their support networks?

Far from home, these children are more likely to abscond. Some will end up living on the streets, where they’ll be exposed to drugs and crime.

We must prevent these kids from becoming a statistic. This month, Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate revealed 47 young Albertans who received help died in the previous 12 months. They all deserve better.

High Prairie deserves better!

AUPE members believe it’s time to demand better from the provincial government.

For the sake of the children, for the sake of their families, and for the sake of this community, we demand better.

Sandra Azocar,
Vice-President,
Alberta Union
of Public Employees.

Editor’s note: AUPE has several vice presidents. Azocar represents the northwest area of Alberta.

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