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Tk'emlúps-signed agreement first of its kind in B.C.

The agreement will ensure people who would otherwise have to leave their home communities for social services can receive them where they live
Carmen Hance and Ross Chilton sign the memorandum of understanding on Sept. 15.

Putting pen to paper gave Carmen Hance goosebumps.

On Sept. 15, Hance, the vice-president of Secwépemc Child and Family Services (SCFS) board of directors and Community Living BC (CLBC) CEO Ross Chilton signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

The historic agreement is the first of its kind in B.C. and will see CLBC, a provincial Crown agency, fund services for Indigenous adults with intellectual disabilities in the Kamloops area that will be administered through SCFS.

The agreement will ensure people who would otherwise have to leave their home communities for such services can receive them where they live.

“Our role is to provide support and to get out of the way,” Chilton said. “We trust and believe what you’ll do is within this building, close together.”

Hance told KTW that SCFS is assuming responsibility for caring for its people “in all aspects,” noting the announcement is historic as a reconciliation effort on the part of the provincial government.

She said the programs CLBC funded prior were not culturally connected.

“Only Secwépemc people can provide that cultural connection to their language, their culture, to their families,” Hance said.

She said the funding will enable the SCFS to provide in-house support to its members.

CLBC will begin by providing $514,000 in funding to the SCFS to support five individuals, and that number may go up over time.

CLBC vice-president Joanna Mills said the Crown corporation will add dollars to the SCFS agreement for additional people with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities who are eligible for CLBC funding that want to remain under the umbrella of SCFS.

“Until today, we haven’t had the ability to support people to stay in their community, so the only choice was to leave,” Mills said. “Now what we do across the river we can now do here.”

Asked why such an agreement has never been done before in B.C., Chilton said he feels the system too often reacted rather than took proactive steps for people reaching the age of adulthood.

“A person would turn 19 and the systems weren’t ready, the agency wasn’t ready, so they were taken and supported in another program away from their community,” Chilton said.

Too often, he said, youth his agency works with had to leave their communities to get support services, fracturing relationships at home that sometimes never heal.

B.C. Minister of Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Sheila Malcolmson was on hand to speak to the crowd gathered at SCFC in the 100-block of Kootenay Way for the MOU signing.

She said vulnerable populations of people should not have to leave home to get the care they need, adding that what is being done with SCFS can be applied to other communities in B.C. — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

“We are proud of you, we are watching you, we celebrate with you,” Malcolmson said.

CLBC provides funding for mental health services, supporting some 28,000 people across B.C. on a wide spectrum, from those who may simply need life skills assistance to people with physical and/or developmental disabilities.