Bridge to Care is a non-profit organization that offers services in support of individuals, children, and families, including community health and support services in Alberta. The Bridge to Care organization is accredited through the Canadian Accreditation Council and maintains a very high standard in the quality of care provided to their clients. The organization currently offers a multitude of programs and supports in the province, including:
· 24-hour respite care in support of parents of children with significant special needs
· Community aid
· Personal care
· Placement program living
· Senior care
· Residential services
The project to be developed in Fort Assiniboine will be a therapeutic facility that will provide health and behaviour management for children with developmental challenges and support for mental health and other health-related issues. Bridge to Care purchased the former Trident building in Fort Assiniboine to house the new program. The facility will have the capacity to accommodate up to 16 clients on a 24/7 and/or drop-in basis. The clients will have a one-to-one staffing level, which is a very high level of support. This means that there will be a dedicated staff member for each client. The program is expected to provide services to clients from throughout Alberta, ranging in age from 10 to 17.
The term “therapeutic services” refers to a group of health professionals who work together to assess, diagnose, treat, and educate clients with a range of health issues, injuries, and/or disabilities. The health professionals involved in this care include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech-language pathologists, behaviour specialists, and physicians. The client’s dedicated team will work together with them, their families, their caregivers, and any other service providers within or external to the Bridge to Care organization to provide the best possible level of care aimed at restoring, maintaining, and optimizing the client’s health, function, and outcomes.
“We have two operational group homes located in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as a facility in Whitecourt. We have recently built a new center in Edmonton that will be opening in May, and our most recent project was obtaining a facility located in Fort Assiniboine which will be developed to have a capacity for 16 clients on a 24/7 and/or drop in basis.” Said Bridge to Care CEO, Praise Abraham in a written communication to The Grizzly Gazette. “Currently we provide residential services that includes health and behavior management for children with developmental challenges, along with mental health and other health issues.
To further support our clients who attend the new therapeutic/rehabilitation center, plans are in place to develop a rural facility into an academy to provide educational and training opportunities with ongoing support.”
As this project is completed and gets closer to opening, Bridge to Care expects to hire 30 - 35 new employees for the facility and has already received applications from some residents of the Fort Assiniboine area.
There has been some controversy in the Fort Assiniboine community about this project. In response to recent concerns from the public, the Council for Woodlands County requested a meeting with Bridge to Care to discuss said concerns. The Council for Woodlands County held an Electronic Special County Meeting on April 15, 2021, attended by representatives from Bridge to Care, including CEO Praise Abraham. Bridge to Care delivered a presentation to the Council with more information about the organization and the therapeutic facility to be developed. The Councillors were mainly supportive of the proposed facility, with only two Councillors expressing concerns. Several Councillors did support seeking further information to alleviate any existing concerns that Councillors or the general public may hold.
During the April 15 meeting, one Councillor expressed concern that he believed that the proposal for the facility and the accompanying development permit application had been for a senior care facility, not a facility providing services to a different clientele. Joan Slootweg, Manager of Community & Planning Service, clarified that the development permit had been for a “Multi-Unit Institutional Public Use: Permanent Supportive Housing” facility and did not specify who the end-users would be. She also pointed out that the Woodlands County Administration had received a legal opinion on the matter on April 9, 2021. One of the main points was that the Municipal Planning Commission can regulate the use and development of land and buildings, but they cannot regulate the users of the proposed facilities as this would amount to discrimination. The legal opinion further states that “although the focus of the development may have changed from the application to construction, the use remains the same.”
The development permit in question was approved on October 21, 2020. The legal opinion from April 9 also states, “Once a development permit is issued, the Development Authority is functus officio and cannot revisit its decision.”
Bridge to Care is thankful for all of the support they have received from Fort Assiniboine and looks forward to a bright future for those they serve and the members of the Fort Assiniboine community.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette