Mapleton and Minto partner on new youth services hub

PALMERSTON – Mapleton and Minto will be partners on a new Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN) hub to be located next to Norwell District Secondary School here.

In separate council meetings on June 16, both municipalities authorized the signing of a lease agreement at 390 Main St. E in Palmerston and allocated up to $20,000 toward the project.

The hubs are part of a grassroots community initiative, led by the Rotary Club of Guelph, to bring an integrated youth services model to the city and Wellington County.

Seven such hubs are planned in the region, with four to be located in Guelph while others will be in East Wellington and Centre Wellington.

The IYSN model is a “one-stop shop” for youth aged 12 to 26 designed to meet a wide range of needs across the continuum, states a report to Minto council from Jessica Dettman, Minto Mental Health lead and children’s programs.

The services cover mental health, substance use, primary care, education, employment, training, housing and other community and social services, noted Dettman.

While the IYSN will include seven locations, participants benefit from a “one door” approach, which means youth can access multiple facilities but “will only have to tell their story once,” Dettman explained.

The report points out the IYSN hubs will be “designed by youth, to serve youth,” providing a safe space to hang out and be active in a “welcoming and supportive environment.”

The report also notes the primary role of the IYSN will be to provide programming, while the the primary role of the municipalities will be to provide monthly rental costs for the space.

Staff have have been searching for a space for the IYSN site since Minto council endorsed the concept in January.

The report indicates both Mapleton and Minto staff are confident a suitable space, formally the location of DJ’s Discount and Solutions, has been identified.

“It’s right beside the high school, so the proximity couldn’t be better and the school is on board as well,” Dettman told Minto council.

“I think it’s a really, really good thing,” said councillor Ron Elliott.

However, he noted, “I’ve got a concern. I’m wondering about the stigma. Is there any stigma for kids coming out of school and going into that place and being afraid of their peers wondering what they’re all about?”

“This space is going to be unique … in that we are engaging the kids at the school to design it. So it’s going to be their space, designed by their peers which is super exciting,” said Minto CAO Derrick Thomson, a member of the IYSN board of directors.

“A lot of the work that I’ve done previously, such as on skate parks, where we’ve had the youth of the community design it, they’ll take ownership of that facility, or that asset, and make it their own, so that helps with that stigma.

Thomson added, “I think as we start to come out of COVID … that ability to reengage with each other is going to be really, really important.

“And if we can have a space of their own for them to do that, I think we’re miles ahead of any other community.”

Dettman noted, “this space is not just going to encompass mental health. It’s going to encompass overall wellness. So this space can be accessed for recreation purposes … so we hope to eliminate that stigma.”

Councillor Jean Anderson said, “I fear the same concern about stigma and kids not attending this. I need to understand better what the model is going to look like.”

Anderson, a registered nurse, said the “one-door” access concept is something hospitals have been trying to do for years “and we’re stopped dead in our tracks by privacy.”

While cognizant of the benefits of the hub as a “social gathering place,” Anderson said, “when you start to bring professional services into that it takes it to a totally different level.

“I’m not trying to be a naysayer, but I know the frustrations we have in the health care system with communications between different providers of care, which is just ridiculous because it halts the good care that should be happening.”

Anderson continued, “Absolutely we need to support our kids and we need to be helping them before the wind up in our emerg department.

“The idea is superb. I don’t know about that location.”

Mayor George Bridge, who cautioned against viewing the facility as a clinic, responded, “We’ve got to find a way for it to work, because you can’t just say we can’t get it to work.”

He added, “There will be an office space there for some consulting, but the majority of it will be the kids helping themselves and working together with a coordinator.”

“I support the venue you’ve got. I think it’s an excellent place, close to the school, right on Main Street. I think you did the right thing in finding that venue,” said Elliott.

“If stigma is an issue, Fergus is fairly close if someone wanted to go there,” councillor Geoff Gunson pointed out.

Councillor Mark MacKenzie asked how participants would pay for services accessed through the hub.

Dettman explained all services provided would be free, covered either by OHIP or participating agencies.

“We have worked pretty hard with Minto Mental Health to compile a list of free resources and support services to provide to our community,” she stated.

Minto council approved a resolution to accept the report and authorize the lease signing with only Anderson opposed.

Thompson noted the $20,000 figure is included in the municipality’s budget, and is an “upset limit.”

The actual rent for the facility will be $1,200 per month.

At is June 16 meeting Mapleton council agreed to “set aside a maximum of $20,000 towards this important initiative” and directed staff “to partner with Minto to create a safe space for our youth to attend and received a wide range of services which will help them receive the support they need.”

A report from Mapleton CAO Manny Baron notes the township will be responsible for 50 per cent of rent and utilities, estimated at $9,000, and other operating cost needed to manage the space.

Baron points out the plan includes an effort to find sponsors to help defray costs.

“Partnering with Minto makes sense as the location would be directly across from Norwell District Secondary School, which would allow easy access for our high school aged students,” stated Baron.

“We believe, now more than ever, this is a very important step as the introduction of COVID-19 has magnified the need for these types of services for our youth.”

The Centre Wellington Community Foundation (CWCF) announced on June 8 it would provide a $10,000 grant toward establishment of the Minto/Mapleton IYSN hub.

The grant is part of the federal Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), funded by the Government of Canada and administered locally by CWCF.