Families unhappy with response over care home closure

Meeting with Fraser Health does little to assuage worries, residents' loved ones say

From left: Owen Schipfel

From left: Owen Schipfel

Families of mentally ill residents at Mountain View Home say Fraser Health is still ignoring their concerns, after a meeting on Sept. 30 about the home’s closure left them with more questions than answers.

Closure of the 25-bed care home near Yarrow, between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, was announced this August, to take effect August 2016. Residents will be relocated to a new facility in central Abbotsford, on Marshall Road. But this closure will result in a net loss of “licensed care” beds for people with mental illness and some Mountain View residents will move to a lower level of care.

“We’re very sad. There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Owen Schipfel, the one resident of Mountain View who attended the private meeting.

Residents’ families took their concerns about the closure public in late September, prompting the response from the regional public health authority. Mountain View staff have set up an online petition asking to keep the facility open, which has attracted nearly 1,500 signatures.

The closure of Mountain View follows the closure of another mental health care home with 30 licensed care beds, Sunrise, on West Railway in Abbotsford, in 2012.

They will be replaced with a new facility on Marshall Road, to be operated on contract by MPA Healthcare Solutions, which will have 30 licensed care beds and 20 assisted living beds.

Fraser Health will also offer 18 subsidies for independent living with support to mental health patients. People in licensed-care beds are provided with all meals and 24-hour nursing support, while people in assisted living are provided with one meal a day and less staff support, but more independence.

Adam Langley, whose brother is a Mountain View resident, was also unhappy.

“When we arrived, the first thing the (Fraser Health) representative said is we didn’t expect…to have this big meeting,” said Langley. “They had no idea what they were walking into. They thought we were going to come in happy and excited to see the new facility…but we’re here to talk, we’re here to figure out how we can keep Mountain View open…It (was) a waste of time.”

Andy Libbiter, Fraser Health’s executive director for mental health, said the meeting was supposed to be a “first step” in the residents’ transition process and “an opportunity for us to hear their concerns and respond in a meaningful way.”

“This was also a chance for us to share the features and services the new Marshall Road campus will offer,” Libbiter continued. “It is important (the families) feel part of the process and that their concerns are addressed…(we) are always willing to speak to any client or family member that feels they need additional support.”

Schipfel’s mother, Marg Schipfel, was also disappointed with how the meeting was handled.

“They just sort of delivered the message,” she said. “They told us we have to appeal to Fraser Health, see if they can re-make the decision.”

Marg visits her son twice a week, and has also made friends with many of Mountain View’s other residents. She doubts whether any of the home’s residents, all of whom have serious illnesses, will be able to thrive with a lower level of care.

“A lot of residents, once they hear the news, they got very depressed,” she said. “It’s gut-wrenching…we need to come up with the money for the beds.”

Libbiter said the decision to end the contract with Mountain View and move residents to Marshall Road wasn’t made for financial reasons.

“All the money…will be reinvested into the Marshall Road campus,” Libbiter said. “I want to reassure all of our clients in Abbotsford that they will not lose any services. If their loved one needs residential care, they will get residential care.”