This Week in Press Releases – February 1-5, 2016

Every week, the City of Guelph and other groups send out notices to announce new events, imperatives, and information that you need to know. Here is this week in press releases.

Construction Firm Chosen for Police HQ Renos
Jasper Construction Corp. is getting the job to renovate Guelph’s Police Headquarters on 15 Wyndham St. for $25,890,000. Did Guelph get a tender from Mike Holmes? “The City looks forward to working with Guelph Police Service and Jasper Construction Corp. on this important project,” says Scott Stewart, Deputy CAO of Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services. “Our strong relationship with our project partners will help ensure we stay on time and on budget.” Jasper has a wide-range of experience working with municipal governments on community centres and schools in Halton, Peel, and the Greater Toronto Area. What’s the timetable? Construction on Police HQ is expected to begin in the next six to eight weeks. The project is expected to cost $34 million in total.

City and CUPE Start Negotiating
The City of Guelph and CUPE locals 241, 973 and 1946 – representing outside workers, office workers, and library staff – began negotiations on Friday. The City’s negotiating team was given its direction by city council at the January 25 meeting, a mandate to “reach a collective agreement that is fair for the employees, reasonable and affordable for citizens, and aligns with settlements of other unionized employee groups.” Details about what both sides are offering are unknown because of the rules of collective bargaining, but this is expected to be the first of nine meetings between the two sides; eight other dates have yet to be scheduled. The contract for all three unions expired Monday. The City will post updates here.

Guelph Right to Life Wants to Change the Story
Later this month, Guelph & Area Right to Life will be hosting Matt Mooney and his organization, 99 Balloons, with the goal to “change the story of disability.” Money’s story is a sad one, his son Eliot was diagnosed with a disease called Trisomy 18, or Edward’s Syndrome, while in utero, and he wasn’t expected to make it to term, let alone live almost 100 days after birth. Mooney has since dedicated his life to building “inclusive communities so that people with disabilities and their families can lead full lives.” His organization, 99 Balloons, is named not after the Nena 99 song, but for the 99 days his son Eliot lived, an occasion marked by Mooney and his wife Ginny by releasing 99 balloons into the air. Mooney’s talk about disability, inclusion, and end-of life care, and it’s free open to the public, and it will take place on February 18 at Priory Park Church (8 Torch Lane, Guelph) starting at 7 pm.

Open House on More Elizabeth St. Construction
You thought it was over, but it’s not over. Actually, if you’ve driven down Elizabeth Street lately, it’s pretty clear that it was not over. The City is having an open house on Thursday February 18 from 5 to 7 pm at the Italian Canadian Club to give area residents a look at Phase 2 of water and sewer pipe replacement work along Elizabeth from Industrial to Victoria Rd. N. This next phase of the project will include the full closure of all intersections along that stretch of Elizabeth from April 18 and running four to six weeks; the project itself is expected to be completed by mid-July. “We invite you to talk with City staff and consultants working on the project so that you can ask questions and clarify plans including traffic changes, timing and property access,” said the press release.

U of G CSA Wants U of G Prez to Make Mental Health a Priority
Courtesy of Central Student Association Academic Commissioner Peter Miller is this open letter to University of Guelph President Franco Vaccarino about the urgent need to get more assistance for university services in dealing with mental health issues.

Hello Dr. Vaccarino,

The Central Student Association Accessibility Working Group is concerned with challenges associated with mental health that students face; these challenges have been increasing in universities across Canada, including the University of Guelph. Increased stresses due to high tuition fees and student debt, poor job prospects after graduation, and having to take on multiple part-time jobs while attending school have no doubt increased the amount of mental health issues students experience.

According to a Mental Health Survey that was conducted at UofG two years ago:

The number of students who access counselling had increased 10 to 15% each year over the previous five years.

Students registering with the SAS with psychiatric and psychological disabilities had doubled over the previous five years

Student Health Services reported a similar increase in the number of students who presented themselves with symptoms of mental illness

Despite these increases, the amount of mental health resources for students at UofG have not kept pace.

Student Accessibility Services has advisors that are overwhelmed, regularly advising over 100 students. There is a pertinent need for more advisors at SAS to aid students with disabilities; there are currently only 9 SAS advisors, and this year, advisors had trouble seeing every one of their 1st year students by the 40th class day.

It is not uncommon for waiting lists at Counseling Services to be as long as a month. The waitlist for an assessment by a psychiatrist on campus is generally even longer, lasting months, and some students must go into the community to obtain any care. The amount of appointments at Counseling Services increased from 4,159 in 2012/13 to 5,529 in the 2014/15 year. With currently only 13 counselors at UofG, it is clear we need more counselors to reduce wait times and ensure students receive the support they need.

It is important for the University of Guelph to support students who are in need of weekly meetings with a counselor. Currently many who need to meet with a counselor weekly are forced to look externally. Many students do not have health coverage for these services and are forced to pay high fees out of pocket.

Furthermore, students with disabilities often are more likely to enrol in school part-time. Not only do part-time students pay more in tuition fees when considering per-course costs, as compared to full-time students, but they also do not have the same access to mental health resources. It is not fair students taking two or less courses can only access the counselling service once a semester for an assessment.

The Accessibility Working Group also supports the Black Liberation Collective – UofGuelph’s demands, including their call to establish sufficient culturally appropriate counseling and mental-health services on campus to serve the mental, emotional, and psychological needs of black students. Our SAS advisors and our counselors also need anti-oppression training to better serve marginalized groups and create an inclusive environment.

The University of Guelph had a 66.6 million dollar surplus in the 2014-2015 academic year and has the means to invest more money in mental health resources. The Accessibility Working Group calls upon the University of Guelph Senior Administration to increase the amount of counselors, psychiatrists, and SAS advisors at UofG in order to reduce wait times. Simultaneously, the Senior Administration must call on the Provincial Government for more sustainable funding for mental health resources at Post-Secondary Institutions across Ontario. Governments should prioritize dedicated investments in frontline mental health supports at post-secondary institutions, through a consistent funding envelope.

At the Central Student Association’s Annual General meeting, students voted overwhelmingly in favour of the AWG’s demands listed above. We hope we can set up a meeting with you within the next two weeks to talk more about the need for adequate mental health resources on campus, and plans to reduce wait-times for mental health services at UofG.

The Central Student Association Accessibility Working Group

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