Last week, people from across the region, including Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services, Michael Coteau, packed Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s (RVH) auditorium to celebrate the opening of the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Child and Youth Mental Health program.
The new regional program features an eight-bed inpatient unit which will care for 300 troubled young people each year, as well as a comprehensive day program which will provide an additional 3,000 outpatient visits annually. RVH has partnered with the Simcoe County District School Board and will have a teacher onsite during the 2018-’19 school year to ensure patients don’t fall behind in their studies. Since 2015 the health centre has also operated a regional Urgent Consult Clinic in its Emergency department to identify and assess youth at risk.
“We know one in five young people suffers from mental illness yet, until now, North Simcoe Muskoka was the only region in Ontario that did not have a hospital-based child and youth mental health program,” says Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO. “A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and they deserve the same quality and access to support. RVH will begin accepting patients into the program this week, easing the burden for troubled youth and their families. This is very good news for our region.”
Today’s emotional celebration featured Zach Hofer, the remarkable 13 year-old who raised $100,000 for RVH’s program through his “Zach Makes Tracks” fundraising trek from Barrie to Ottawa. His mother, Shelley, also shared her personal struggles with mental illness.
“Seventy per cent of mental health issues emerge in childhood or adolescence. Youth in our region suffering acute mental health issues, such as suicidal behaviour, psychosis and severe depression will now have quick access to specialized inpatient services for stabilization and treatment,” says Dr. Eric Mulder, RVH Chief of Psychiatry.
The RVH Foundation funded the unit’s $5 million construction and equipment costs through its highly-successful $25 million Hearts and Minds campaign.
RVH is making significant strides in improving access to healthcare. In December it opened a new 36-bed Transitional Care Unit to address surging patient volumes and in early-January will begin providing advanced cardiac services through its Simcoe Muskoka Regional Heart program.