BROCKVILLE, ON. — With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, agencies in the Brockville area are seeing a higher number of youth-related mental health calls. Now, the Brockville Police Service and RNJ Youth Services are teaming up to offer solutions.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in calls for service relating to youth mental health, criminal activity and drug use,” said community safety officer Greg Francis, with the Brockville Police Service.
“A lot of mischief, more assaults, thefts, vandalism, as well as increased drug use,” Francis added. “We’ve recently entered into a partnership with RNJ Youth Services here in Brockville, which sees one of their workers embedded at the police station.”
The idea is to review calls for service in hopes of connecting youth and their families with the appropriate agencies in a timely manner.
“A lot of our programs are either diversion programs or we’re creating plans to hold them accountable for offending behaviours,” said Sue Poldervaart, from RNJ Youth Services.
“More recently, we’ve started getting into a number of different things we can do at earlier stages. One of them is the Intersections program. It’s really a navigation program for kids who are having their first police contact. We’re able to sit down and meet with them and their families or their caregivers and help figure out what it is that they need and get them to where they need to be,” Poldervaart said.
Referrals can be made to children’s mental health services or RNJ can help advocate for educational supports.
“We also have a number of programs that we’ve been working with the police (like) our after school program, giving kids positive activities to do after school and use activity kits,” said Poldervaart.
“Especially during COVID, we’ve been able to get some funding to provide some activities to kids to keep them busy and occupied during this time,” she added
This week, the Ontario government announced more than $147 million dollars in additional mental health funding, with over $30 million going towards youth mental health services.
More than $15.4 million will also go to help expand virtual mental health supports like Kids Help Phone.
It’s something Lorena Crosbie, from Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville says is needed.
“We’ve seen approximately a 20 to 25 percent increase in calls over last year at this time, so it’s very concerning. Very complex situation,” Crosbie said.
“We’re absolutely thrilled as a children’s mental health sector. It will take some of the strain and pressure off us service providers. We do have some wait times and this will alleviate some of that and we look forward to future investments in child and youth mental health,” Crosbie added.
“Last March, when the shutdown happened, we were ready for virtual services within two weeks, but because we are an essential service and not all children and youth can actually access the virtual services, we need to see them in person and that’s arranged as well.”
Francis noted that back in March and april, the force observed a decrease in calls for service, which was concerning.
“The fact that a lot of agencies were closed due to the pandemic, those agencies were unable to reach out to the families,” Francis said.
“In the last couple months since schools have reopened (we’ve seen) a significant increase. RNJ Youth Services, Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville, the crisis line have all seen huge increases,” he added.
Poldervaart said they have seen some great results and she encourages families to reach out if they know someone who needs help.
“The stories I could share would break your heart and also make you feel good at the same time because we’ve been able to get them back on track and be successful,” Poldervaart said.
“We work really hard in our community to say every door is the right door. I would encourage anybody to reach out to an agency that they may be familiar with and, if it’s not the right place for them to be, we’ll make sure they get where they need to be,” she added.
Crosbie agreed, saying anyone who notices a change in behaviour with their kids or youth should make a call.
“Family, caregiver, it could be a teacher; anyone who interacts with a child or youth and recognizes that someone may be struggling, that is the best time to intervene,” she said.
“If we intervene early, often we can build a support system around the child or youth but we can also help the child manage some of the struggles, teach them skills so that hopefully things aren’t as difficult for them in the future,” Crosbie added. “Parents usually have a sense of when something’s a little bit off and its a great time to ask what’s happening, can we talk, let’s get together and see what we can do.”
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN LEEDS AND GRENVILLE AND BEYOND
Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville has offices in Brockville, Gananoque, Elgin, Kemptville and Prescott:
RNJ Youth Services is based out of Brockville:
Kids Help Phone
Brockville police non-emergency line:
Youth Services 24/7 Crisis Line:
For mental health support services in Ottawa, visit Ottawa Public Health.
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