Fate of youth treatment centre in question

The High Prairie Campus Based Treatment Centre (CBTC) is now closed after a fire Nov. 5, 2023. Its future depends on a major project study being completed and subsequent recommendations regarding the state of the building by Alberta’s Children and Family Services.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

A provincial union says the High Prairie Campus Based Treatment Centre (CBTC) is closing, but the Alberta government is saying the facility’s fate is still being considered.

South Peace News received an anonymous email in late March citing the former High Prairie Youth Assessment Centre facility’s closure but since has received conflicting data regarding its future.

Even Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Sandra Azocar sent mixed messages in her news release April 2.

“Vulnerable children and the town of High Prairie will suffer from the Alberta government’s decision to permanently close the youth treatment centre,” she wrote.

Later, Azocar appeared to contradict her statement.

“Instead of refurbishing the centre after a fire in November 2023, the government will keep it closed for the foreseeable future,” she added.

Still, a permanent closure would be devastating to the town.

“The children who need help, and their families, will now have to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment.”

Ashli Barrett, press secretary, Office of the Ministry of Children and Family Services, confirmed the temporary closure in an email March 26 due to a fire Nov. 5, 2023.

“It will remain closed until a major project study is completed and subsequent recommendations regarding the state of the building addressed,” wrote Barrett.

At the time of the closure, wrote Barrett, there were 14 permanent staff and nine wage staff.

“Employees will be provided options under the collective agreement and the Public Service Employment Regulation Act,” wrote Barrett.

At the time of the fire, the facility had 10 treatment beds for youth with six in use. All youth were transferred to the Yellowhead Youth CBTC.

Azocar says the news is bad for High Prairie. She said the 22 AUPE members working at the centre are either losing their jobs or are being forced to relocate to Edmonton, Lac La Biche or Lethbridge.

“That’s the loss of 22 good-paying jobs, of 22 families from the community,” said Azocar.

“This will have spinoff effect on the town’s economy, particularly on local business.”

She adds affected families must now choose between moving or losing their jobs.

Azocar adds nine positions have already been eliminated, while 13 others must choose between employment and a long-distance move. The jobs affected include child and youth care counsellors, individual support workers, cooks, and rehabilitation staff.

Edmonton is 370 km from High Prairie, Lac la Biche 340 km away and Lethbidge 870 km away.

“The children need this centre to reopen,” wrote Azocar.

“High Prairie needs this centre to reopen. The government has given no reason why it can’t be reopened. High Prairie deserves better,” she concludes.

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