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Innisfail & District Victim Services announces it’s disbanding

News made public by agency’s executive director at recent RCMP town hall meeting
Mary Dawn Eggleton, executive director of Innisfail & District Victim Services, during her presentation at the Innisfail RCMP town hall on May 9. She told the audience of about 40 citizens her agency, which has served the town and region for the past 27 years, is being disbanded by the provincial government as of April 1, 2024. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – The longstanding Innisfail & District Victim Services that has been supporting victims of crime since 1996 will be disbanded on April 1, 2024.

The shocking announcement came on May 9 at the Innisfail RCMP-sponsored town hall meeting during a presentation by Mary Dawn Eggleton, executive director of the local agency for the past three years.

Eggleton discussed the change of service issue during a town hall presentation last year but only gave the audience a broad overview of what the provincial government was planning. She was unable to offer other details, including timelines or impacts to staff or clients.

Following her passionate and emotional presentation on May 9 she told the Albertan her organization “tried to fight” the provincial government plan this year through the local municipality but “their hands were tied".

“All we can do is keep going forward. The government has been firm in the fact that we will be disbanded, and victims of crime will be helped out (from) a centralized regional office somewhere,” said Eggleton. “We are assuming Leduc. They (government) don’t give us details.”

As for her future and the job of her program administrator Makayla Bierkos, the executive director said they have “no idea".

“They have told us that it is intended we can possibly be considered for jobs with them at some point,” said Eggleton, whose agency also comprises six volunteer board members, five volunteer victim advocates, and another four to five volunteers who help with special events.

“Sporadically once a week we get an email that says, ‘here’s how you can reapply for your job. Here’s how the pay structure might look like.’

“And no actual details.”

During the town hall, which was moderated by Innisfail RCMP Staff Sgt. Ian Ihme and featured several speakers, the audience of about 40 citizens was told the new regional victim services office will only handle serious crimes.

“It won’t handle things like frauds. It won't handle things like mental health calls,” said Eggleton, who is a trained and schooled professional mental health worker. “We have people who come in who are just struggling. They don't know where to go and what to do about it; maybe people who are struggling with addictions, and all those types of things.

“So, they won't handle any of those.”

As for clientele access, Eggleton noted her agency covers the same detachment area as the Innisfail RCMP; from Penhold to Innisfail and the area around Bowden, and then east to Pine Lake and west to Spruce View.

With a planned regional model that could have victim services offered in Leduc, she said that would be problematic for many citizens needing support.

“We got people who can't even go to Red Deer for services, how are they going to go and possibly be serviced by somebody from Leduc?’ said Eggleton.

Her presentation on May 9 surprised and even shocked some in the crowd who did not know a decision had been made to disband the local victim services agency on April 1, 2024.

Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay, who attended the town hall meeting, told the Albertan the news of the agency being disbanded was not what she heard at a recent Alberta Municipalities conference.

She said it was her understanding the province was going to “back off” with some of the plans they originally intended to do and leave “some things intact.

“It sounds from tonight that’s not the case. We know that there was going to be a change coming next year but I felt it was more around a governance change and having more of a regional approach at the governance level,” said Barclay.

“I don't think I was necessarily aware that they may be pulling victim services out of the local detachment. That's one thing that really shocked me this evening.

“I'm extremely disappointed that we're not getting the communication on this at this point in time."

Meanwhile, Devin Dreeshen, MLA for the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding, told the Albertan following the town hall meeting the issue comes down to funding.

He added improving wait times for crime victims who need support is also a priority.

“I think for any election there is obviously a direction of government that is something we want to reassess if a decision has been made, and it's not actually yielding the results,” said Dreeshen when asked if he would personally take another look at the situation with the local victim services agency.

“If we don't see these wait times going down with this change, then I would see a policy change in the other direction.”


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