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Long awaited Youth Wellness Hub opens this month

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

A long-awaited youth mental health centre in Sarnia’s downtown finally opens its doors this month.

The Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) Sarnia-Lambton location, in the works since 2018, is being touted as a ‘one stop shop’ for youth aged 12-25, to address needs related to mental health, substance use, primary care, education, employment, training, housing and other community and social services.

Originally named ‘Access Open Minds,’ the project — a partnership between St. Clair Child & Youth Services; Bluewater Health and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Lambton Kent; the Spoken Hope Youth Advisory Council; and Bluewater Health Foundation — the project transitioned to ‘Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario,’ in 2021 as part of a provincial strategy to expand and improve services for young people through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

YWHO is a network of 22 ‘hubs’ across the province, “where young individuals can find comprehensive mental health and addiction services, including counselling, peer support, crisis intervention, and access to specialized care when needed,” a news release noted.

A grand opening for the facility at 190 Front Street is planned for Aug. 22.

“After years of hard work and planning, we are proud to open our doors to youth in our community,” said St. Clair Child & Youth Services Interim Executive Director Craig McKenzie. “This grand opening represents a significant milestone in the mental health landscape of Sarnia-Lambton. Youth have long faced systemic challenges to accessing services, and YWHO Sarnia-Lambton offers a centralized space to provide comprehensive care and support.

“Youth will have the opportunity to step through the doors, empowered to prioritize their mental health and embark on a path to resilience and wellbeing.”

Renovations at the former CIBC building, owned by the County of Lambton, began back in 2019, when the Mike Weir Foundation pledged $200,000 in matching funds – and an overall committment of $1 million – and Imperial Oil’s Sarnia site announced a $50,000 donation. 

The Judith and Norman Alix Foundation gave $150,000, and an additional $850,000 from Progressive Auto Sales owners Dan and Jon Whitton in 2022 lifted the campaign to its $3-million goal. The County leased the building to YWHO Sarnia-Lambton for a symbolic $1.

An original opening date in 2020 was delayed to January 2022, then summer 2022, then spring of 2023.

“The opening of the YWHO Sarnia-Lambton location represents a significant milestone in the quest to normalize youth mental health care and reduce barriers that often impede access to vital services,” said Rhonny Doxtator, Acting CEO, CMHA Lambton Kent. “By offering a welcoming environment where youth can freely seek support, YWHO Sarnia-Lambton strives to decrease frustration and improve overall mental health outcomes for our local youth and their families.”

Opening in tandem with YWHO Sarnia-Lambton is Weir Active, a research project funded by the Mike Weir Foundation in connection with the Youth Wellness Hubs of Ontario. Weir Active is a free service for youth 12-25 years old, with the purpose of showing that physical activity and play have a place in a care model for mental health.

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