Children with mental health and addiction issues in New Brunswick received a major boost of support Tuesday.
The Gallant government announced a program currently providing services to 34 schools will be expanded to serve a total of 146 schools.
The Integrated Service Delivery is currently serving the Charlotte County and Acadian Peninsula areas. The expansion will include Saint John to Sussex, Miramichi along with the Chaleur and Restigouche regions.
According to the government, $2.9 million is also being invested into resources that include social workers and psychologists.
Maureen Bilerman of Fredericton started to deal with her then 13-year-old daughter’s mental health issues nine years ago.
“At the time we just could not find the appropriate treatment and services for her,” she said.
Now, other families like the Bilermans may soon have better access to treatment.
“I have no doubt that had this been in place for us as a family, those flags probably would have been raised and our story could have gone in a much better way,” Bilerman said.
New Brunswick’s Child and Youth Advocate said he hopes the initiative will keep more young people out of the justice system. He recounted a recent case involving a young girl with mental health issues.
“It was a blow-up, she was charged, taken to the New Brunswick Youth Centre – handcuffs, leg irons – the whole nine yards,” Norm Bosse said. “I can’t see that that’s a positive thing for that girl in her life.”
Tuesday’s announcement was made at St. John the Baptist/King Edward School in Saint John. The school’s principal said students and staff have already been doing some unofficial collaborating with different mental health awareness groups.
“We’ve had mental health a couple of years ago to come into our building, to go and service students on site – working with their families and in conjunction with the staff and how we support them,” Christine Roy said.
Bilerman has a four-year-old granddaughter and her daughter is now 22. She founded the initiative DOTS NB, which focuses on mental health issues involving youth and said it will be a few years before the real changes will be seen.
“For our family, this generation, it’s too late but it’s not too late for the kids that are coming down the road,” Bilerman said. “It’s not late for my granddaughter.”
It’s hoped the Integrated Service Delivery model will be province-wide by 2018.