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Rally: Thistletown family members vow to fight closure

By Richard Bradley, FFACT member, http://savethistletown.com/

Less than a week after the government announced it will close the Thistletown Regional Centre, Families and Friends Against the Closing of Thistletown (FFACT) met on a sunny Sunday afternoon for the first time in almost 17 years.  

Family members of all ages, including a large contingent of children, rallied in support of the facility that helps more than 400 children and youth in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with complex mental health, behavioural and developmental challenges.

A website to save the facility has been created http://savethistletown.com/

Families chanted “Save Thistletown” and listened to speeches by veterans of the 1995 campaign – ultimately successful – to keep Thistletown open in the face of a closure plan by the government of the day.

As in 1995, families learned through the media of the McGuinty government’s announcement on March 19 to close Thistletown over the next two years.

The parents’ message at the March 25 rally was clear. They are angry at the lack of respect and compassion shown by the government for not consulting with them or even letting them know the closure was coming.

They say the claim by the Minister of Children and Youth Services, Eric Hoskins, that Thistletown clients can be easily transferred into community programs shows that he and his government are completely ignorant of the situation facing families.

Parents say their children are being served by Thistletown programs precisely because these programs don’t exist elsewhere. Thistletown runs out-patient programs across the GTA with a small but vital residential component that operates on the grounds of the Etobicoke facility.

The title of the government’s news release that announced the closure was: "Improving Mental Health Services For Children And Youth". Nothing could be further from the truth. The government is destroying these services.

The largest program at Thistletown is the Treatment, Research and Education for Autism and Developmental Disorders (TRE-ADD), a comprehensive, community-based program for children and adolescents diagnosed with developmental disorders.

With approximately 1 of 165 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, how can the province shut down a treatment and research program when so much is still unknown about a relatively common developmental disability that affects many families in the province?

The group is calling on all organizations that support and advocate on behalf of any and differently abled persons in Ontario to Make Thistletown Their Fight, so together we can SAVE THISTLETOWN as well as push back effectively to protect the services of all children that need any kind of support.

The fight to SAVE THISTLETOWN has just begun and FFACT is committed to do whatever it takes through any available avenues to educate the McGuinty government that shutting down Thistletown is just plain wrong and removes the last level of the safety net for children in the entire GTA.

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