Youth services hub in Centre Wellington set to launch

FERGUS – The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) is gearing up for the opening of a youth mental health and support services site for Centre Wellington  in Fergus this summer.

Encompassing 6,000 square feet, the Fergus site is slated to open in June, and officials estimate it will serve over 5,000 youth in the area. It is the pilot for CMHA WW’s Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN) project, which will see a total of seven sites developed across the county.

The IYSN project has a $10 million fundraising goal to achieve the launch of all seven sites.

Each site will provide services such as mental health and addiction counselling, employment support, and peer-to-peer programs, to youth aged 12-26.

“Young people have been hit hard by the mental effects of the lockdown as we all do our part to decrease the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Ontario,” says Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong. “It is crucial that we are there for our youth. Organizations like CMHA play an important part in Ontario’s mental health roadmap. The Integrated Youth Services Network sites will allow youth the ability to get mental health counselling where and when they need it.”

“The IYSN project was inspired by Dr. Joanna Henderson and the Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario model,” explains CMHA Waterloo Wellington CEO Helen Fishburn. “It will have a ‘one-door’ policy which is a huge benefit to youth. It means that a young person will only need to tell their story once in order to access and use the services at any of the sites.”

Each site will be able to assess the needs of its youth clients. Through an interconnected online system, the right services will be accessible to youth no matter which site they visit. Virtual counselling will be available when professionals are off-site, reducing wait times for programs and support.

The IYSN location in Fergus is located at Skyline Community Hub, a facility owned and managed by Skyline Group of Companies. Skyline has committed to invest more than $1 million in this Hub, on behalf of its non-profit tenants, allowing for reduced construction and operating costs so that more of the non-profit organizations’ resources can be available for programming. In addition to IYSN, these tenants include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Centre Wellington and Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph-Wellington.

“Providing the space and investment to help facilitate services for our youth is critically important for our communities, now more than ever,” says R. Jason Ashdown, co-founder and chief sustainability officer at Skyline. “Skyline is always looking for creative and innovative ways to help effect positive change; this philosophy is integral to how we operate.”

IYSN’s director Cyndy Moffat Forsyth, applauds Skyline and other organizations that have offered support for the project.

“We want to show our youth that communities care, and it’s going to take support from every part of the community,” said Moffat. “There are businesses and organizations that are stepping up and helping us reach our fundraising goal. With each level of support, we are one step closer to making the full multi-site project a reality.”