Central Lambton Family Health Team getting help from St. Clair Child and Youth Services
Petrolia is getting more staffing for a deluge of youngsters seeking mental health help.
Demand among youth – mostly 8-16-year-olds – had spiked over the last five months to the point where two social workers at Central Lambton Family Health Team could no longer keep up, said Sarah Milner, executive director of the 14,500-patient facility.
“We were having to try to extend the days, fit them in over lunch hours,” she said. “We don’t want to have children and youth having to wait for several weeks to get in to see someone.”
There is no money for a new hire, so the health team appealed to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to reallocate money and pay a child and youth worker from St. Clair Child and Youth’s Point Edward office to assist four days a week.
The health team tapped underutilized “dietary needs” funding in favour of boosting mental health services, Milner said.
“This was just standing out as a priority area that we couldn’t ignore,” she said.
The clinician is expected to start seeing patients next week, including one-on-ones, and group support sessions with families, she said.
The addition also will mean educational workshops on mental health subjects for the community, she said.
After five months, plans are to evaluate the pilot, she said, attributing the recent surge to increased awareness and people being more willing to get help for mental health.
“People are becoming familiar and we are trying our best to address those issues,” she said.
St. Clair Child and Youth also runs drop-in clinics out of the Petrolia site twice monthly and is the lead agency for youth mental health in Sarnia-Lambton.
It runs similar clinics at its Point Edward office and other locations in Sarnia-Lambton.
In general there aren’t enough clinicians to meet demand, said Teri Thomas-Vanos, director of clinical services.
“It’s not always possible to get into Sarnia for service, so we’re bringing services closer to home for families,” she said.
The staff shuffle has meant juggling in Point Edward, she said, noting she hopes doing so results in fewer people from central Lambton having to travel to St. Clair Child and Youth for help.
“We continue to review our service structure and we try to be as responsive to what the community tells us the needs are,” she said.
St. Clair has 65 front-line staff and a $4.6-million budget, she said.
Wait times vary but mostly people are being seen inside of three months for longer-term services, she said.
“The biggest barrier is adequate resources to provide those services,” she said.
How much more funding is needed is a work in progress, she said.
“We are some mapping about realigning, but I think it might be a bit premature to say that.”
For more information on services, contact St. Clair Child and Youth Services at 519-337-3701, or the Central Lambton Family Health Team at 519-882-2500.