Fourteen recommendations are being made to help mentally disabled people as the Saskatchewan government closes one of the last remaining institutions in Canada.
A report released Friday outlines ways to make it easier for nearly 200 people living in the Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw to move.
The recommendations include providing opportunities for the residents to keep relationships with peers — something particularly important given that the average length of time current residents have lived at Valley View is 41 1/2 years.
"The maintenance of those relationships will be critical to the emotional well-being of the residents as they move to new community homes," the report says.
Social Services Minister June Draude said Friday that efforts will be made to keep people together.
"Some of the residents of Valley View have very good friends," Draude said. "Sometimes they're like a family group and they would like to be together, so we'll try to work with individuals in that way."
The 197 residents of Valley View are to be moved to different types of community-based housing depending on their needs. That could include licensed private homes that provide for people with intellectual disabilities or group homes with staff to provide care, supervision and support.
The average resident age is just under 59. Roughly four out of five residents are more than 50 years old.
The report says the housing they go to should be dispersed across the community, not just in one neighbourhood, and the housing should be indistinguishable from other homes.
Other recommendations include making sure transportation is available, expanding crisis response services and ensuring everyone has access to meaningful activities.
The report says access to specialized services and supports is required "at a level not easily attainable in community-based services." It says if that access is diminished, then there is potential for individuals to "deteriorate in community."
It also says many of the individuals moving out of may need some additional services to ease the transition from an institution to a community-based residence.
"When transitioning individuals, timing and an understanding of the individual will be critical to successful transition. There is no magic formula that will develop a specific transition process," according to the report, which was prepared by a committee that included family members and Social Services officials.
"Some individuals will succeed with rapid transitions moving from one place to the next immediately, while others will require long and well-formulated plans," the documents said.
Draude said she'll review the recommendations and a transition plan will be announced this summer.
The Valley View Centre is a sprawling complex of buildings built in 1955 for 1,500 people. But it is deteriorating and the province has been moving away from institutional care for people with intellectual disabilities.
The centre stopped admitting new residents in 2002.
The Saskatchewan government announced last year that it would close Valley View by 2016.
Draude said she knows there has been some fear about the closure for residents and their families.
"Maybe this report is still not going to give the final feeling of 'OK, it's going to be all right,' but as we present our report back to the committee and to the families, I think they'll then understand that this is what's going to be happening," said Draude.
"I know that there was a lot of angst with families when we first started...and the Valley View committee has just been working constantly and very carefully with each family to help understand their concerns of each individual."