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Boys’ Home funding could go to clinic

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Troy Shantz

The Huron House Boys’ Home says its future is at risk because of the changing landscape of children’s mental health.

St. Clair Child and Youth Services, the lead agency that distributes provincial dollars, has proposed cutting the Boys’ Home funding allocation by 16%.

“Our position would be that, frankly, the community needs more funding, not re-allocation,” said executive director Don Adam.

What’s more, the local Children’s Aid Society has decided not to fund residential placements at the Bright’s Grove home.

The double blow of a $86,000 budget cut combined with the loss of referrals means the operating model of the 18-bed home is likely no longer viable and will need to change, he said.

Sue Barnes, executive director of St. Clair Child and Youth, said the Boys’ Home funding is being reallocated to cover gaps in the local mental health system.

Stakeholders and focus groups have said the money would be better spent expanding St. Clair’s mental health walk-in clinic in Point Edward, which is currently open two days a week.

“The need for allocating dollars to a crisis service, and expansion of our walk-in service to provide access to parents on a daily basis, were two of the priority areas that came out,” she said.

Some 515 children and youth visited Bluewater Health’s emergency department last year for mental health issues, a 27% increase, Barnes said.

Seventy percent of them were rerouted back to St. Clair Child and Youth.

“We know having a crisis service is a huge gap, we know that access to care for families is a problem, and going to a hospital emergency department is not the answer.”

The changes mean fewer boys will be able to live at the Boys’ Home, Adam said.

St. Clair distributes funds for six mental-health beds. The proposed budget cut would reduce that to five.

There are currently 12 boys in residence. The home is also supported by an arms-length Foundation and community events such as the Father’s Day run/walk and Men Who Cook Gala.

Thirty staff positions are safe for now but “their jobs may change,” said Adam, who noted everyone at the 49-year-old home is searching for ways to cut operating expenses.

“We are committed to continue to provide our high-level of service,” he said.

St. Clair distributes provincial mental health funding to four local agencies: Rebound, Community Living, Starting Point, and the Boys’ Home.

Barnes wouldn’t say if any of the others are impacted.

The province must still approve the proposal. But many social services are moving away from the residential care model.

“It’s a trend across the province right now that kids do better to stay with their family,” she said.

St. Clair had to shift its own resources to get the walk-in clinic up and running and expand mental health services into Lambton County, she added.

The St. Clair Child and Youth walk-in therapy clinic serves youth ages 6 to 17. It’s located at 129 Kendall St., Point Edward, and is open Tuesdays from 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Thursdays 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

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