January 5, 2015 7:40 pm

Riverview youth counselling centre forced to cut hours due to lack of funding

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RIVERVIEW, N.B. – A popular counselling centre offering free services to youth and young adults has been forced to cut back counselling hours because of lack of funds.

The Atlantic Wellness Community Centre serves young people ages 12 to 21 and is a registered charity. It offers professional therapy and counselling services completely free of charge and relies on donations to operate. It has been open since 2011 and has seen more than 500 patients.

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But on Jan. 1, they had to cut back one of their two full-time counselling positions to one day a week. At the moment, they are not accepting new patients and instead, placing them on a wait-list.

This is something Executive Director and therapist Lesley Smyth said she hates to do.

“With youth and teens, they’re very much in the moment and they need that immediate access,” she said. “They need to feel that they can turn somewhere at that particular moment.”

Smyth said putting young people on a wait-list could potentially take away some of the hope that they’ll be able to get the help they need.

Young people can access the centre through self-referral or through referrals from parents or other family. Smyth said many referrals often come from guidance counsellors at schools.

Jamie McGloin told Global News his daughter was referred to the centre by her middle school guidance counsellor two years ago. Through counselling, they learned she was suffering from social anxiety and had some deeper issues of depression.

“She was in a lot of bad places, but she didn’t have anywhere to share it or she was afraid to share it or she didn’t know how to share it,” he said.

“This became a place where she trusted and built a relationship with the counsellor.”

McGloin said his daughter is doing much better now and has spoken publicly about her story in support of the centre, but he worries for other teens and parents who can’t get the same access.

“The parents that aren’t getting help for their teens, the pressure it puts on themselves, on their relationships within their home [or] with other kids in their home. It’s immense,” he said.

Laurie Fisher, who sits on the board of directors, said the centre has benefited from donations from many organizations and groups in the past including corporate donations and grants from the United Way, but said this kind of funding is not sustainable.

“Healthcare is everyone’s concern and wellness is something that is part of most organizations whether it’s provincial, municipal or federal,” she said. “[It’s] part of their mandate in terms of providing wellness for their communities. We really need government, in particular, at all levels to step up and provide funding to help out.

She added it’s critical young people have access to the services they need because a lot of mental illnesses first present themselves in adolescence.

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