"Our community is losing a supportive home for some of our most vulnerable citizens living with mental illness."
Quesnel, BC (Jan 15 '10) - After over 15 years of serving the community, the Quesnel Step-Up House, a five-bed home for the chronically mentally ill, will close its doors at the end of today.
"Step Up House is not just a care facility, it is a key part of the community of care so that people stay stable and well," said Brenda Brown, chair of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union's (BCGEU/NUPGE) Health Services Component.
Step Up House is a residential group home providing long-term care for two patients with mental illness and short-term, respite care for up to three others at a time. In addition it provides meals, medication support and services to other mental health patients living in the community.
Step Up House and its employees received notice on November 5, 2009 that the Northern Health Authority (NHA) would stop its funding effective January 15, 2010.
The union and community supporters undertook a spirited campaigned to pressure the NHA to restore funding to keep the facility open.
Over 830 residents of Quesnel and the area signed a petition calling on the NHA to restore funding and keep Step Up House open. The petition was delivered to the NHA board and MLA Bob Simpson (Cariboo-North) The Quesnel and District Labour Council and community supporters held a rally in support of Step Up House and funding for health services. Union representatives presented to the Quesnel City Council asking for their support to keep the House in Quesnel, and city council endorsed the campaign on December 14. Union representatives also presented to the NHA's board meeting in Prince George on December 14.
The residents of Step Up House have been relocated to other facilities. One resident has been moved to Prince George. Temporary solutions have been found for others.
"I am proud of our members who, despite the uncertainty about their employment future, worked tirelessly to advocate for their clients' needs," said Brown. "Our members care deeply about supporting people with mental illnesses. At the same time as they were preparing Christmas for their residents, they were volunteering their own time to campaign to keep Step Up House open. They truly embodied the northern way of caring and our community is better off for their efforts."
Step Up House employed five regular staff and six casual staff, all members of BCGEU/NUPGE. Union representatives continue to work to secure other opportunities for employment.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE