Funding announced for youth mental health, addictions site

Funding announced for ACCESS Open Minds youth mental health and addictions site. (Photo courtesy of Bluewater Health Foundation)

Sarnia-Lambton has been named as one of eight new Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) locations across the province.

YWHO, a network of 22 hubs, announced the new site locations on Tuesday after it confirmed funding from the provincial government.

Bluewater Health said this will ensure the sustainability for ACCESS Open Minds moving forward.

Paula Reaume-Zimmer, vice president of integrated services for CMHA Lambton Kent and Bluewater Health said an exact dollar figure as to how much will be received is unknown at this point.

The process to be named a funding recipient has been a few years in the making. Reaume-Zimmer said they initially applied during the first round of funding about five years ago but were not chosen.

“We were offered an opportunity to refresh and with a second round late last year, fortunately, we are now able to secure our spot as a new YWHO site,” she said.

Depending on the size of the model and ministry approval, Reaume-Zimmer said some peers across the province have received annual funding in the past ranging from $650,000 to $1 million.

Reaume-Zimmer credits much of their success to partnerships, including the Spoken Hope Youth Advisory Committee. Throughout the planning process, committee members used their own experiences to help youth.

“Working towards this goal over the last few years we have been thrilled that youth have been represented and our voices genuinely valued,” said Spoken Hope Co-chair Bella McGill.

Co-chair Janessa Labadie also said the funding is a “positive affirmation” of their experiences.

ACCESS Open Minds reached its fundraising goal at the beginning of the year after Progressive Auto Sales donated $850,000 to the campaign.

Construction is currently underway on the new Sarnia site, located at the corner of Lochiel Street and Front Street. Reaume-Zimmer said a grand opening is expected to take place in the fall.

YWHO supports youth between the ages of 12 and 25 years old. The organization was originally funded through philanthropy and by the Ontario government in 2017, in order to address gaps in the youth mental health system.

“This investment in eight new YWHO hubs comes at a time of great need for youth and families, as we continue to see the impacts of the pandemic,” said YWHO Executive Director Dr. Joanna Henderson in a statement. “Not only will this YWHO expansion allow us to serve more youth and families, it will also allow us to continue to learn about the needs of youth throughout Ontario and how to work together to address these needs more effectively.”

The announcement was made during Mental Health Week.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) conducted a survey last year and found that 42 per cent of students wanted to get help for their mental health but didn’t know where to go.