May 29th, 2024

MLA calls for restoration of cancelled LEARN program funding

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on April 24, 2024.


Hundreds of letters are being given to the provincial government in support of the recently cancelled program at the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization that assisted at-risk seniors.
The Lethbridge Elder Abuse Response Network was terminated by the provincial government in March.
The program had operated for 12 years until the LSCO executive director learned in late February the program was being discontinued at the end of March.
LEARN was assisting about 40 seniors when it was cancelled.
The program provided assistance for seniors dealing with, or facing imminent risk, of abuse which included a partnership with Green Acres Foundation.
MLA for Lethbridge West Shannon Phillips says LEARN served many seniors of imminent risk of abuse despite a small budget and staff.
The seniors, LEARN served, are no longer receiving services, she said. A few days after the cut, a group of local people gathered letters of support for Phillips to take to Edmonton, a total of 376.
One of those supporters, Jody Plaineagle, said a group of students at the U of L wanted to help so they organized tables and gathered signatures.
“We were surprised by how many people were very worried about the program’s cancellation. We heard from the people who had family or neighbours or friends who needed the services. We heard many stories of fear and sadness,” said Plaineagle.
Jake Brown said the students were amazed at the support for the program and they ended up more than reaching their goal. Many sent letters to Edmonton on their own.
“The LEARN program is definitely needed and we hope that our work has helped raise the issue for the government so that they can fund the program again immediately,” he said.
“The UCP government did not need to be told about the immense value of the LEARN program” because while funding was being cancelled, another department was simultaneously choosing a part of the program to receive a provincial award to Green Acres Foundation with the Minister of Seniors Service award for non-profit organization for their outstanding service in sheltering at-risk seniors in the LEARN program,” noted Phillips.
Phillips called upon the province to fund the LEARN program through the LSCO so that organization can “continue to provide award-winning services to at-risk seniors in the city. They need to do so immediately, not in six months time, not after all of the folks that have been receiving services have gone back to whatever at-risk situation that they were in before.”
Phillips said because the service was apparently under-funded, she also believes original funding should be restored and increased to $200,000 to improve access to critical services and make a three-year commitment to LEARN.
Miyashiro, in a statement Friday, said the LSCO is currently in discussions with the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness council, which is tasked with contracting elder abuse case management services on behalf of Seniors, Housing, Community and Social Services about LEARN funding.
He added there is no other organization in Lethbridge receiving funding to deal with at-risk seniors who are experiencing abuse.
In response, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis stated “previous government funding to LEARN was provided to the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization through a grant program that is now replaced by the new Specialized Criminal Justice Navigator (SCJN) grant program. This grant will provide $6.8 million over two years to support victims of crime as they navigate the criminal justice system. 
“Grants will assist 20 non-profit organizations in Alberta to ensure they receive equitable, responsive and coordinated support during the aftermath of a crime. And thanks to the advocacy of the local MLA, Nathan Neudorf, this does include funding for an organization in Lethbridge,” said Ellis.
“This funding is making an immediate difference to address significant gaps in Alberta communities by enhancing frontline service delivery, building capacity in organizations, and enhancing services available to victims of specific types of crime, such as intimate partner violence and sexual violence, and vulnerable victims requiring extra support, including youth and the elderly,” Ellis added.
“Due to the competitive grant process, not all previously funded organizations will be successful under the new SCJN grant as we align our strategic priorities to ensure navigational support for victims of crime.
“Alberta’s government is committed to keeping seniors and elders safe. Through Budget 2024, Alberta’s government will invest $9.7 million over the next three years in elder abuse prevention and supports including through Safe Spaces, Unison, Sage and the Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council to support community response networks.”

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