ACCESS Open Minds Coming to Downtown Sarnia

Friday, December 6, 2019 - 12:38pm

New youth centre offering mental health and addictions services

Today, representatives from Bluewater Health, Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent and St. Clair Child & Youth Services are excited to announce the location of a new integrated youth mental health and addictions site in Sarnia-Lambton.

The new site, located at the corner of Lochiel and Front streets in Sarnia, will be a mental health and addictions youth space that has been developed as a go-to destination for youth (11 to 25) and their families who are seeking fast access to education, assessments, counselling and treatment.  Many core services from the three partners (e.g. crisis counselling, housing, case management, and psychiatry) will be co-located in this centre. This removes barriers to care, transforms the way service providers conduct their daily work and improves care through a coordinated approach. ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton is based on international, national and provincial best practices and is heavily reliant on using youth to co-create the experience. 

ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton will join the existing 14 sites across Canada. This will form part of Ontario’s Youth Wellness Hub Initiative. 

Dr. Srividya Iyer, Scientific-Clinical Director of ACCESS Open Minds, said, “This new service will not only address an urgent local need, but also plug into a global revolution in youth mental healthcare. In many advanced countries, systems are being changed to make it easier, simpler and faster for young people with diverse mental health problems to get care that is friendly, respectful and effective. Canada is leading the charge on this continent. Now, Sarnia’s youth will benefit from everything we’ve learnt from this movement, and, I’m sure, also teach us how to help them and other young people better.”

Subject to final agreements being negotiated and approved by County Council, the County of Lambton, who owns the building at 190 Front Street, is in the process of making the space available to ACCESS Open Minds.

"This space allows the ACCESS Open Minds team to provide efficient assessment and treatment for members of our community in one welcoming location, and maintain a prominent presence in the community," says Lambton County Warden Bill Weber. "This centre will bring awareness to existing services and provide easier access to those seeking them. We are proud to be able to support this initiative in such an impactful way."

More than 75 percent of mental health issues develop before a person turns 25, yet many traditional services aren’t equipped to address the unique barriers young people face when trying to access mental health support. “The ACCESS Open Minds Sarnia site will address this critical gap, by providing tailored and holistic mental health and addiction services to youth. The site will be designed not just for youth in our community but with them, to ensure their needs are met and voices are heard,” says Paula Reaume-Zimmer, Integrated Vice President of Mental Health & Addiction Services - Bluewater Health and CMHA Lambton Kent.

She also noted that the Emergency Departments witnessed a 34% increase in youth mental health visits last year. “Over 33,000 Ontarians aged 25 and younger tried to take their own lives last year, and one in five Canadian youth suffer from mental health and substance use disorders.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association is a leader in the evolution of Ontario’s mental health and addictions system. “CMHA Lambton Kent is committed to working in collaboration with our partners to improve access to high quality mental and addictions services for all,” said Alan Stevenson, President and Chief Executive Officer, CMHA Lambton Kent. “Bringing Access Open Minds to Sarnia-Lambton is a top priority for CMHA Lambton Kent and we are delighted to take this step toward realization of that vision.”

As Lambton County’s Lead Agency for child/youth mental health, St. Clair Child & Youth Services believes it’s important to be responsive to the needs of the community. “Sarnia-Lambton is in urgent need of this integrated youth mental health and addictions site,” said Sue Barnes, Executive Director, St. Clair Child & Youth Services. “The centre will reduce interagency transfers and paperwork along with improving youth engagement strategies by establishing a central youth space for collaborative treatment planning and delivery of services.”

A Youth Advisory Council, established through the partnership, will be instrumental in designing the new facility’s look and feel from the colours of the each space to the design of the therapy rooms. With a very much downtown, friendly, welcoming youth space mandate, the advisory youth council will be instrumental to ensuring that youth will see the space as meeting their needs. This exciting work will involve over a dozen youth over many months.

The goal is to have the ACCESS Open Minds (Sarnia-Lambton) site open by September 2020.

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