S.P.A.N. has undergone fairly radical changes both as a result of the growing demand for services, and the ever changing sense of what ‘best practices’ means for the agency and the people we serve.
In the 60’s parents started their organization to find supports for children where there were none. At this time, common practice suggested that the ‘mentally disabled’ should be institutionalized. Many families knew this was wrong, and worked to keep their kids at home.
By 1968 the association became a quasi-school board. Disabled children were not allowed in regular school, so New Hope School was created; and children of all ages and disabilities moved to our community to participate.
By the 70’s children were becoming adults and supports needed to transition. The community began with a day program and our first ‘Social Enterprise’. Very little funding was available until the province was pressured into funding community based supports in the late 70’s.
In 1980 our board committed to assisting young adults to move from Institutional care, into assisted living. Resident #2, resident #3 and apartments were developed in succession. There was a sudden influx of people, and the agency responded by finally hiring a full time administration team. Opportunities like mental health support offered St. Paul residents a broader scope of services.
The concept of independence and true community inclusion were also driving forces that influenced the agency. We accelerated the move from the Michener Centre Institution and expanded apartment living into a full outreach program. More housing was purchased and employment became a real focus for the first time. People with disabilities could work, they could contribute meaningfully to their communities.
The 90’s brought the first of a series of government cutbacks. The agency looked for ways to insulate ourselves and a group of vulnerable people from drastic funding changes. This began a two decade move toward financial independence with Social Enterprise.
Early in the new millennium saw another spurt of growth. Government got serious about reducing the number of people in institutional care, and there were agencies across the province, like ours who were ready for growth. Over the course of 5 years several important services were added and S.P.A.N. took full advantage of the investment in community supports.
Our recent history really follows the logic of past decades of change. With more people developing skills, and a greater acceptance in the community, we saw several influences affecting our work:
- Government regulation catching up to the shift from institutional care to community care. This meant new, stringent guidelines; accreditation standards; zoning and safety expectations.
- People maturing in place. This meant dealing with seniors issues; adults moving from group homes to more independent situations.
- Cost Control. Community care meant more people accessing services, and the government needing to address new budgets.
- Complex care. Those people who could be more independent graduate from facility based supports to more independence. Meanwhile, those who had multiple challenges remained within the formed support structure. Pressure to accommodate complex care needs resulted in S.P.A.N. focusing on those issues and developing more community resources.