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Expanding mental health services for kids

Published on

Pam Wright

An initiative to improve access to mental health services for children will see an expansion of walk-in therapy clinics in Sarnia-Lambton.

It’s part of an ambitious provincial plan to level the playing field for young people who need help — regardless of where they live.

For the past two years, St. Clair Child and Youth Services has been successfully providing help to families on a walk-in basis. Every Tuesday afternoon, parents and children can bypass the frustrating, lengthy wait times and get immediate help.

Most families are served by one visit to the clinic, said Craig McKenzie, the agency’s director of system operations.

“Through intervention, (the clinic) assists us in meeting a family’s needs when they need it,” he said.

Mental health services are as important as those for physical illness, McKenzie said. A child with a broken arm can go to a hospital emergency department, but getting help for depression isn’t so easy.

“We, as a society, provide help for sickness, and access to mental health services should be no different,” he said.

“We need to look at taking the stigma out of seeking help for mental health problems.

Ontario’s child and youth mental health sector is currently a patchwork of services. Increasing demand and long wait lists are negatively impacting families and delaying help for kids who need it most.

St. Clair Child and Youth Services is one of 33 lead agencies in Ontario chosen to examine how children’s mental services are delivered, and how barriers can be removed.

The expansion of local clinics is still in the planning stage. Focus groups are part of a mental health services “map” being created, McKenzie said.

Every viewpoint will be considered, and pinpointing where — and how — new walk-in clinics can better serve Sarnia-Lambton’s rural and First Nation communities is a goal, he said.

Agencies that provide front-line services, including the justice and education systems, will be consulted.

And the province is listening, he added.

“It’s well thought out.”

Input from parents, children and the wider community is welcome, said McKenzie said, who can be contacted at [email protected].










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