Eleven months after announcement, no new information on youth facility

A new report released Thursday by the New Brunswick Health Council found mental illnesses in Children and Youth is well above the national rate. Alexandra Abdelwahab/Global News

MONCTON, N.B. – It’s been eleven months since former Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé announced plans for a new treatment facility for children and youth with complex mental health needs in the province.

During a press conference on Dec. 12, 2013, Dubé said it had entered a service agreement with Dots NB to create a “network of excellence.” As part of that network, they announced a call for proposals for a 15-bed treatment facility called the “Centre of Excellence” that would “assess and develop treatment plans” for both those in the facility and in the community.

“This facility will be the first of its kind in New Brunswick,” Dubé said at the time. “It will improve the quality of life for these children and youth because it will enable them to obtain the services and treatment they require as close to home, family and friends as possible.”

That call for proposals closed on March 28. Since that time, neither the Alward or the new Brian Gallant government has released any further information on the facility.

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On Thursday, Jean-François Pelletier, spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Development said in an email, “we don’t have any new information to provide you on the Centre of Excellence.”

Mel Kennah, the executive director of Youth Impact in Moncton, was part of a group that submitted a proposal to supply and operate the new treatment centre. He said while he believes the government is moving forward on the project, he hasn’t heard many details.

“Everybody that’s been involved in this journey is anxiously awaiting further developments,” Kennah said. “When are the doors going to open? Can we determine is it going to be in Moncton, or is it just a possibility that it’s going to be in Moncton?”

Kennah said Youth Impact Moncton has been working with youth since 1985 and over the years he has seen a rise in the number of mental health issues in young people as well as the complexity of the mental health issues some of those young people are experiencing.

“It affects their employment, their ability to attend regular schooling programs,” he said. “It will affect all the relationships that they have in their lives.”

The Centre of Excellence was first proposed in a report co-authored by the former Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate Bernard Richard in 2011. The report made a number of specific recommendations outlining exactly how the new facility should look including that it be based in Moncton. Richard wrote it after an extensive consultation program initiated under the Shawn Graham government.

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That consultation program was launched after an even earlier report in 2008, written by Richard, called Connecting the Dots.

Kennah said the situation for young people hasn’t got any better in the province since that report was first authored.

“No question, there’s every bit as much a need today, if not more so than there was when the initial Connecting the Dots report came out several years ago,” he said. “Young New Brunswickers are experiencing a lot of challenges in this area and this has been going on for years. So it’s certainly time if not overdue for New Brunswick to grow some of its resources.”

A new report released Thursday by the New Brunswick Health Council found mental illnesses in children and youth is well above the national rate.
On Thursday, Richard told Global News he thought it was time that the government actually started building the facility.
“We don’t need more committees, more studies, more working groups, more round tables. We need action,” he said.
“How many young people can we afford to lose to a system that offers inadequate options for them? How many suicides? How many lost souls?”
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Meanwhile, Maureen Bilerman, executive director of Dots NB, said despite the service agreement announced last year, her organization has not gotten any more information about the Centre of Excellence either, other than that the tendering process closed in March.
“I do know from talking to some of our government contacts that things are moving along, but we’re really not able to get any information about where or when those services are going to be available for our youth,” she said.

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