A new and long-awaited initiative in the field of mental health and addiction services was launched in Kemptville last weekend. The Mental Health and Addictions Health Hub for Children and Youth in North Grenville is the result of more than two years of talks, planning and hard work on the part of more than twenty partner agencies, and is designed to co-ordinate the many services already available in the municipality, as well as introducing new ways of outreach to young people in our community. The initiative began when Frank Vassallo, CEO of KDH, began to contact other service providers to talk about how their work could become more collaborative and to end the situation where agencies were often unaware of what others were providing.
The launch took place at Kemptville District Hospital, and was attended by representatives of the partner agencies, community members, and politicians from both municipal and provincial levels of government. Steve Clark, M.P.P., congratulated all those involved in bringing the Hub into existence, and noted the funds that were recently announced by his government to support mental health services in the region. Locally, Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Addictions and Mental Health Services will receive $535,429 to support programs including $100,000 for opiods addiction treatment and services. Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville [CMHLG] will also receive $54,475.
Minister Clark stated that the funding is designed to improve the mental health care system, which is disconnected and too often makes it difficult for patients and families to get the care and services they need. The result, he said, is many vulnerable young people and their families are left to navigate a confusing system on their own, and can access timely mental health care only when in crisis.
Lorena Crosbie, Executive Director of CMHLG, thanked Steve Clark for the funding, and spoke of her organisation’s new Walk-In Clinic, which is open on Wednesdays between 11 am and 7 pm at 3-5 Clothier Street in Kemptville. As a first fruit of the new Hub, the Clinic provides children and youth up to 18 years of age, along with their families, counsel and support for behavioural, emotional or other mental health concerns. Lorena spoke of her satisfaction that mental health for children and young people is now on the healthcare agenda in the province.
Natalie Markoff, Director, Communications and Partnerships, for the Parents Lifeline of Eastern Ontario [PLEO], also welcomed the new Hub. PLEO offers a telephone helpline and a support group that meets every month at KDH, for parents of children with mental health challenges and addiction issues. They also have a mobile service to meet parents where they’re at, and whenever they need it. All peers, the PLEO members have, as Natalie told the gathering, “walked the walk with our children. We know what it’s like. To see this happening warms my heart. We have a lot to celebrate.”
As speaker followed speaker, the extent of the problems faced by families and their children in North Grenville became increasingly obvious. Norrie Spence, Director of Connect Youth, an agency dealing with homelessness among people between the ages of 12 and 25, reported that her agency had the advantage of not having a waiting list and being available daily. However, there was no room for complacency. Connect Youth’s Kemptville apartment is for youth 16 to 25 has had over 125 referrals this year. As Natalie said: “Child homelessness is a reality in North Grenville”.
Dr. Irfan Moledina, a Consultant Paediatrician, reported that more and more individuals and families are coming to doctors with mental health issues. Almost every patient he sees has some kind of mental health challenge: 9 year-olds getting suspended from school repeatedly for aggressive behaviour; a 13 year-old with cut marks all over her arms; 7 year-olds refusing to go to school and having panic attacks because of constant bullying at school. Collaboration, he said, needs to happen, hence the Hub. Every minute counts when it comes to mental health and emotional well-being.
Frank Vassallo then announced a Hub-naming contest, with a prize of an iPad. The title of the Hub is a clumsy one, and it needs a shorter, user-friendly name. “Let’s get the children and youth involved in naming the Hub: it is for them.” The competition runs from now to the end of school year, and is open to anyone aged 12-25 and residents of North Grenville. Only one entry each.
Frank gave a short history of the Hub, and repeated that there is a dire need for these services across Canada, and North Grenville is no exception. Two years ago, the strategic plan identified the need. Other services will be rolled out as they become available, but the agencies will not wait for everything to happen at once. He quoted Barack Obama’s statement to sum up the philosophy behind the project: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for; we are the change that we seek.”