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Phoenix Centre named lead agency

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families has been named a lead agency for delivering mental health services for children and youth to Renfrew County.

The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families has been named a lead agency for delivering mental health services for children and youth to Renfrew County.

The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families has been named the lead agency for child and youth mental health services in Renfrew County.

It will be one of 33 such agencies overseeing the new and improved mental health system being developed by the province, under the umbrella term “Moving on Mental Health,” which seeks to transform the entire child and youth mental health system to make it more accessible and effective.

On Tuesday, Greg Lubimiv, Phoenix Centre executive director, presided over a web cast and conference call which officially launched the Renfrew area site. He said this is an exciting venture which will allow the organization to design a system to deliver mental-health services that address local needs.

“This is a huge endeavour,” he said, and will require a lot of work, including extensive community engagement, to develop a mental-health strategy which will identify the top priorities and services and the ways and means people can access them.

The Phoenix Centre is also moving swiftly, with the intention of having a community engagement plan ready for provincial approval by March 31. That will act as a stepping stone to widespread community consultation, which in turn will lead to the creation and implementation of a strategic plan for children's mental health by the end of March 2017.

The end goal, Lubimiv said, is to implement a mental-health system which provides youth and families with access to core services throughout Renfrew County, and to ensure that all infants, children, youth and families receive the right service at the right time.

“This is pretty exciting, and I think it will make a difference.” he said, stressing none of this will happen overnight.

The Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) is overseeing Moving on Mental Health, which is considered an important part of Ontario's Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. The plan ensures children, youth and families are able to get mental health services in their communities that are accessible, responsive and meet their needs.

This is being done by strengthening the community-based system for delivering mental health services, which brings people and organizations closer together locally and benefits everyone. Once fully in place, all children and youth with mental health problems in Ontario and their families will know what mental-health services are available in their communities and how to access the mental health services and supports that meet their needs.

During the conference call, Patrick Mitchell, acting project director for the system transition team with the MCYS, said the key is the development of the lead agencies like the Phoenix Centre which will deliver and be accountable for these improved services.

“These lead agencies will be responsible for the planning and delivery of services,” he said, which will be backed up with provincial funding. This, Mitchell said, is devolving responsibility to the local level, giving these agencies the authority to plan and deliver services.

He said under the leadership of these lead agencies, parents, caregivers and youth will know how to access the range of mental health services available in their service area, and who is accountable. Other sectors, such as primary care, public health, justice and education will know where to go to build partnerships and protocols, so that all can better meet the mental health needs of families, children and youth in an integrated, transparent and co-ordinated way.

“Lead agencies will be expected to engage other community-based child and youth mental health service providers in planning for the delivery of core service through the development of a core services delivery plan,” Mitchell said, while also collaborating across the continuum of children and youth mental health services, including work with district school boards, Local Health Integrated Networks and others to develop a community mental health plan.

Backing up this initiative is the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, whose Centre of Excellence for Children's Mental Health will be supporting the efforts of the lead agencies.

Kim Berry, community engagement co-ordinator for the Phoenix Centre, said it has been connecting with groups. On Wednesday she will be meeting with Pikwakanagan youth, in early March, it will engage the youth from the Salvation Army group, and later on reach out to military and Algonquin College youth. She said parent groups and French language schools will be surveyed, and online surveys for youth and parents will be launched soon.

The idea is to help determine the priorities of the community when it comes to mental health, information which will help in creating a mental health plan.

Lubimiv said there remain a lot of unknowns ahead, but the Phoenix Centre will be striving forward as the lead agency. He said it will be consulting with existing lead agencies to learn about their best practices.

“We'll be providing much more detail as we move forward,” he said.

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