Minto council endorses integrated youth services hub proposal

MINTO – Council here endorsed a grassroots community initiative led by the Rotary Club of Guelph, to bring an integrated youth services model to the city and Wellington County.

Guelph Rotarian Cyndy Forsyth and Kate Reed, who was seconded from the Canadian Mental Health Association to help with the project, explained the concept to Minto council at the Jan. 7 meeting.

An integrated youth services hub is a one-stop centre for youth aged 12 to 26 that provides easy access to services for mental health, substance use, primary care, education, employment, training, housing and other community and social services in the same place.

“These hubs can also include peer services, outreach, and system-navigation assistance,” the delegates explained in a report.

“In addition to being co-located, services must work together closely to decrease fragmentation and improve timely and quality care to youth.

“The youth and family voice is essential in the development and implementation of hubs.”

Forsyth said the Guelph group has been working with Minto Mental Health for the past eight months on a concept originally presented to the Rotary Club by a speaker on integrated youth services.

“We know from research that youth struggle when they first enter puberty with mental health and growing up and figuring out what it’s like to be a teenager, and their identity.

“And then we also know at the age of 18, the way we’ve set things up in our society, they fall right off the mark and we don’t have services and we expect them to just be adults,” said Forsyth

She added the hubs would provide centralized services from housing assistance to mental health so youth could access them at the same location.

The hub would also be prepared to provide “a soft or warm hand off if someone was experiencing a severe mental health situation.”

The integrated youth service model is not a new concept, Forsyth told council.

“We are not reinventing the wheel. There are 40 of these across Canada,” she stated.

“The way the Ontario government is going it’s about integrating and centralizing services and we want to be a little bit ahead of the curve when the money starts flowing.”

While the basic model is established, Forsyth said it is being adapted for local needs.

“Our model is just a little bit different because we know that we are not reaching rural youth well. So we’re not going to build a great big youth centre in downtown Guelph and expect people from Minto to come to it. That’s not going to work and we know it’s not going to work.”

Forsyth said seven “micro sites” would be “sprinkled” around Wellington County and Guelph.

The sites would be networked to assist, for example, a youth from Minto attending the University of Guelph.

“We want to create a micro site here and a micro site in Guelph so they don’t have to retell their story.”

While ideally there would be a site in each Wellington County municipality, Forsyth said phase one would focus on “low-hanging fruit,” involving organizations that are ready to participate.

Planned phase one micro-sites and partners include:

– Fergus – Centre Wellington Big Brothers Big Sisters;

– Minto Mental Health – looking at sites;

– Erin – East Wellington Community Services;

– west Guelph – Shelldale Family Gateway;

– north Guelph – Canadian Mental Health Association, Waterloo Wellington – Woolwich Street facility;

– south Guelph – Guelph YMCA/ YWCA; and

– central Guelph – University of Guelph.

Forsyth said the Minto site would be “ideally in Palmerston” due to the proximity to Norwell District Secondary School.

Forsyth said the next steps in the process will be creating a memorandum of understanding with all partners, putting together a fundraising campaign and engaging youth and family service providers.

“People are already approaching me about giving,” she pointed out.

Mayor George Bridge said the initiative dovetails with efforts of Minto Mental Health, Norwell and various community groups.

“This is something we had talked about. I think you put the package together nicely and the fact that it is across the county and that we’d be able to partner,” makes it attractive, the mayor explained.

Council endorsed the participation of Minto Mental Health as a partner in the initiative and authorized them to participate in development of the memorandum of understanding.