Downtown youth mental health facility delayed until next summer

Youth members of the Spoken Hope Committee stand in the future site of ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton (Submitted photo)

Sarnia-Lambton’s ACCESS Open Minds Centre remains on the drawing board but likely won’t be operational until July of 2021.

The youth mental health and addictions facility will be established at the former CIBC building on Front Street. It was supposed to be in service by now but was delayed due to COVID-19.

ROA Studios of Chatham has been hired to work on conceptual drawings for the space which will be reviewed by a youth advisory council.

Bluewater Health Mental Health and Addictions Vice President Paula Reaume-Zimmer said the youth want the facility to have a relaxed feel.

She said they’re aiming to serve about 3,000 individuals aged 12-25 that would typically be reaching out for help.

“Definitely when they walk in they want to see something very youth-centric, something that feels and looks exciting and comfortable,” said Reaume-Zimmer. “They want a safe space to engage in their mental health care that’s open and looks very non-clinical.”

Reaume-Zimmer said the need for a facility is even greater now due to the pandemic.

“The youth recognize that having a space like ACCESS Open Minds will open doors to individuals reaching out for help, and we know that the sooner youth reach out for help the better impact we can have on helping to provide the support and treatment that will help them return to their normal lifestyle as much as possible.”

She said the tender for construction is expected to be awarded before the end of the year.

Work on the building will start in the spring.

The Mike Weir Foundation is spearheading the initiative and has helped raise over half of the $2.5 million fundraising goal by matching community donations.

The latest donation of $12,000 came from Dow Chemical.

“Dow came back to the Sarnia-Lambton area after it merged with DuPont and the St. Clair River facility in Corunna changed ownership to Dow,” said Rudy Bhola, Dow St. Clair River site leader.  “Dow has been a part of the community here for 78 years and although our manufacturing footprint is much smaller now, we are still focused on how we can help build a more resilient community.”

ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton site unveiling. December 6, 2019. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)

ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton site unveiling. December 6, 2019.