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MGEU worried about the future of MDC 0

By Jordan Maxwell, Portage Daily Graphic

Staff photo by Jordan Maxwell... Members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (left to right) John Baert, Lois Wales and Russ Tychonick stopped in Portage to discuss the MDC, correctional facilities and other issues regarding mental health.

Staff photo by Jordan Maxwell... Members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (left to right) John Baert, Lois Wales and Russ Tychonick stopped in Portage to discuss the MDC, correctional facilities and other issues regarding mental health.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union stopped in Portage as the members of the union sought give their two cents on what the provincial budget had to offer.

The Manitoba Developmental Centre came up as a key concern for the union because there are no provisions set aside for those services and care for mental health issues.

"It's important to the city of Portage. They provide good service to those who have mental health issues and developmental problems and I think the province should be on board trying to save MDC and some of the services that they provide," said Lois Wales, president of the MGEU.

Wales said there was no money put aside to help deal with ways to make better use of the MDC while retaining the professional services, jobs and expertise in Portage.

"There was no separate money in the budget for the MDC and there are a few things that we've brought forward that we believe is relevant to the centre," she said.

"They are providing some rehab services to people on the outside and maybe that should be expanded."

John Baert, special projects officer at the MGEU, added investment options need to be considered when it comes to correctional facilities working with the MDC in terms of taking inmates.

Wales said that about 25 per cent of inmates are diagnosed with mental health issues and distributing them into the correctional system doesn't solve any issues per se.

What's more, she also said that jails are overcrowded by about 1,000 inmates and with Bill C-10 not yet in play, it is unclear how the new legislation will alleviate some of the pressure on the system.

"They need to invest in it and it's getting close to the best before date. We haven't seen much in the budget to indicate that the MDC is a priority," said Baert.

"That's one of the things we've looked - the MDC and corrections. Is there some synergy there? Is there a way to provide mental health services to inmates. Let's not just think of it as a developmental centre. Are there other ways that we can use the expertise within the Portage community in a way that benefits Manitoba?"

RHA Amalgamation

Both Baert and Wales also said that the MGEU supports the move to amalgamate 11 RHAs into five.

The MGEU has long supported moves to reduce administration costs, however Baert said that further clarification on what types of jobs will be cut is necessary.

"There's a whole gamut of people who make your health care run. So you hear the province say that front line services won't be affected but does that mean lab techs? Does that mean occupational therapists, or is it admin costs we're talking about? Is the amalgamation from 11 to five only going to save you $10-million or are you looking beyond that?" said Baert.

"Let's talk about what that means. What areas will be affected by those cuts. If you're looking for $128-million, those costs are significant. Let's talk about how that affects families and communities."

Next Step

The MGEU continues to tour the province as they discuss their views on the provincial budget.

Wales said that Manitoba doesn't have an expenditure problem but an issue reeling in revenue due to income and corporate tax cuts over the last decade.

Still, Wales added that the MGEU is working with the City of Portage and the RM of Portage to discover the economic impact of having no MDC to provide jobs to people in the community.

"We're encouraging the city and the RM to get involved in an economic impact survey as to what would be the impact of removing the MDC to see what would happen to the city as a whole," said Wales.

"They've been very good partners in looking at different ways of using the MDC but it's going to take a lot of community effort and support from all corners of Portage."

jordan.maxwell@sunmedia.ca


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