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Supporters rally to save Thistletown centre

Parents and advocates of mental health awareness rallied together Sunday, in an effort to save the Thistletown Regional Centre from closure.

Demonstrators held a “bubble party” outside the centre’s front gates at Kipling and Finch. Blowing bubbles was meant to symbolize how government promises to replace programs are both easily made and broken.

“They’re saying that the services for the people of Thistletown now exist in the community. And it’s just not the case,” said rally organizer Richard Bradley.

In addition, supporters wore blue wore blue in recognition of Autism Awareness Day, which is Monday.

Thistletown, a provincially-run facility, serves more than 400 children and youth throughout the GTA. It treats patients with complex mental health, behavioural and developmental disabilities, as well as children who have experienced sexual abuse.

Jamila Kaliye has a child with autism, and says he has made great strides since being at Thistletown. She doesn’t know how she will manage without the facility.

“It’s going to be very hard. I have to take care of him…Alone,” said Kaliye.

The majority of the patients will be transferred to community based-agencies. 15 individuals who reside at the facility will have to leave, and the province has publicly said it will work with families to find suitable accommodation.

The facility was also threatened with closure in 1995, but that plan collapsed under parental pressure.

Thistletown is slated to slowly close over the next two years.