Ground Broken for New Youth Mental Health Centre, Plus New Funding

Even before the pandemic, services for area youth, especially mental health services, have been sorely lacking. A giant leap forward was initiated on Thursday with the ground-breaking for the new Centre for Children’s Mental Health and Developmental Services Building. When it opens in less than two years, it will be a hub over 30 service providers and be a magnet for over 9,000 local children, youths and their families.

Called The Grove, and located on the site of an old McDonalds on Woolwich Street, the centre will offer a variety of services to children and young people as old as 26. Children and youth crisis support, youth outreach support, service coordination, mental health support in child care and early years, child psychiatry, family support options, infant and child development support will all be available out of the same three-storey building.

“Considering the impact of the pandemic on the wellness of our children and youth, there is an urgent need for increased access to mental health care and treatment,” said Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington CEO Helen Fishburn in a statement. “This new building will have a substantial impact on children and their families in Guelph and Wellington County.”

“We are thrilled to finally introduce The Grove to our communities and most importantly, our local youth.” added Cyndy Moffat Forsyth, the director of The Grove. “During a year that has already taken so much from our youth including social interaction, friendships, extracurriculars and in-class learning, it is our obligation to give back — this starts with addressing the current mental health resource system head-on.”

The project has come to fruition thanks to a generous donation from Robert Eilers, president and director of the Vesterra Group of Companies, a local commercial and residential developer. Vesterra is developing the property, and will own the building when complete in a combined charitable donation of $50 million, which CMHA calls the largest single donation of $50M to community mental health in Canada’s history.

“I am proud to be part of this project, because I was one of those kids that organizations like Canadian Mental Health Association helped when I was a teenager,” said Eilers in a statement. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the dedication and hard work that organizations such as CMHA do day in, day out. So I’m privileged to be able to give back to the heroes that were there for me. And in today’s world after this global pandemic, this is needed more than ever.”

“Without the generous donation from Vesterra Property Management, CMHA Waterloo Wellington’s new children’s mental health and developmental services building simply would not be possible,” added Fishburn.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, as well as Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner and Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield were on hand for the groundbreaking. The day before, Longfield made an announcement of his own, new funding for mental health services in the Guelph area.

Courtesy of the Public Health Agency of Canada, CMHA and Compass Community Services (formerly Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph-Wellington) received a combined $400,000 out of a $50 million investment that went to 57 different agencies across Canada for the recruitment, training, operating costs, and knowledge exchanges for support centres.

“The two projects funded in Guelph will provide a range of mental health support and care for young people and families in our community,” Longfield said in a statement. “This is especially important as we work our way out of the pandemic and its associated pressures from isolation and uncertainty into a new normal.”

The $250,000 received by the CMHA will fund additional staff for their Here 24/7 Service, a one-stop shop for all mental health and addiction services across Guelph, Wellington and Waterloo Region. The money will also add additional peer workers to assist frequent callers and prevent further escalation and crisis. According to CMHA, they seen an increase of calls on the Here 24/7 line from 4,000 calls per month to 6,500 calls per month since the start of the pandemic.

Compass Community Services, meanwhile, will be using $150,000, to fund their telephone support services line, and increase capacity with new software and infrastructure, plus additional staff. Compass will also add a dedicated line for people who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, which should come on line in sometime in the next few months. The phone line currently gets more than 2,000 callers per month.

“This additional funding will add desperately needing staffing capacity to an increased number of anxious, depressed and overwhelmed people in our community, as well as additional staff to provide a mobile response to people who are imminently at risk,” said Fishburn in a statement.

“Compass Community Services, formerly Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph-Wellington, is thankful for the funding,” added Joanne Young Evans, the executive director of Compass Community Services. “It will ensure complete coverage and supervision 22 hours a day, 7 days a week for Guelph and Wellington residents. The services have saved lives and are an efficient, compassionate and cost saving service for our community.”

Back in March during the first anniversary of the start of the pandemic, CMHA Ontario reported that only 35 per cent of Ontarians considered their mental health “very good” or “excellent”, while 57 per cent reported that they have felt lonelier since the start of the pandemic. Rates of stress, anxiety and depression have also increased since March 2020.

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