UPDATED: Minister tours youth treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor

Andrea Gunn
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Facility to take first youth in June

With the new youth treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor getting ready to open its doors, Health and Community Services Minister Susan Sullivan was in town Monday to tour the $12.5 million facility and see what it will offer.

From left, Val Elson, Regional Manager of Health and Addictions Services, MHA Susan Sullivan, and Central Health CEO Rosemarie Goodyear tour one of the classrooms in the new youth treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor, while speaking with some of the staff who were involved in on-site training on Monday.

Divided up into three pods with four bedrooms each, the centre will be able to treat 12 youth at a time.

The facility is equipped with several observation and examination rooms as well as bedrooms, kitchen areas, a gymnasium, workout room, art room, and classrooms.

There is also an apartment for families of young people seeking treatment that will help reintegrate them into home life. It has taken almost five years to build the youth treatment centre from conception to completion.

Speaking to the media after the tour, Sullivan said though she had seen the building plans and had a brief tour during the construction phases, today was the first time she had had a detailed tour of the facility.

“Coming in today this was a really exciting time for us. There’s no doubt what we’ve built here is state of the art and the real beneficiaries will be youth that are here and have opportunity to re-direct their lives as a result,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said while the building itself was something to marvel, the staff that will work closely with the youth are world class, bringing many years of experience to the program.

The aim of the new youth treatment centre will be to work in conjunction with other healthcare services in the province, to assess youth with complicated needs that would benefit from a long-term treatment program, according to Val Elson, Regional Manager of Health and Addictions Services. Youth will be chosen by a provincial committee based on assessed needs. The centre in Grand Falls-Windsor will deal mostly with youth suffering from severe addictions, while an identical facility in Paradise, slated to open this fall, will take in youth with complex mental health needs.

Elson said with the type of drugs available to youth today, from marijuana and alcohol to things like cocaine and prescription medication, an intensive treatment program like what will be offered in Grand Falls-Windsor is crucial.

But, according to Desmond Coombs, Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services with Central Health, this part of the treatment is just one aspect of a continuum of care across the province that seeks to educate, prevent, treat and continue to prevent relapse of youth with addictions.

“There’s front line councilors who are providing care in their communities, and then there’s vey complex heavy duty cases where we need to take the youth, put them in a safe environment, safe for their mind body and spirit so they have a chance to recover,” he explained. “And then just as important having a connection back with the services in the community. That’s the whole key idea of having an apartment here so the families can come. They can see how the treatment works, receive some family therapy together and then take the knowledge and the experience and go back to their home and community.”

Coombs also said 40 plus staff at the new treatment centre will be working closely with professionals across the province to offer cutting edge treatment.

“(This will become) an centre of excellence for new ideas, new interventions, new treatments, and then hopefully standardize interventions throughout the province. This is really going to be the beginning; this is the hub for major changes to the province over the next 5-10 years. That’s what really makes this place more exciting ,” he said.

While there had been some concerns several years back from residents about the existence of this type of facility in the community, Sullivan said she hasn’t heard a single word of protest since the initial concerns and said in her estimation the public is fully supportive of the endeavor.

“The staff has done a wonderful job in terms of awareness of what kind of (institution) this is. This is a centre where people want to get better,” Sullivan explained.  “When (the public) sees commitment of the province to this, that it is state of the art, I think all of those factors together have made a difference in terms of the acceptance level.”

Coombs added that the building is also extremely secure, with many safety measures in place to protect both the young people and the public.

“There’s going to be staff here 24 hours a day, there are protocols for any kind of child that’s lost and they’ll be implemented immediately,” he said. “When you focus on the child’s needs and protect the child, then a secondary gain is that the whole community is protected

Coombs said one of the aims of the centre is to incorporate the community as part of the treatment in a way that will be beneficial to their patients.

“We’re going to have the doors open to have the community become part of our community here, we already have people from the arts community who want to volunteer to provide art and for our youth,” Coombs said.  “The more people from our community coming in to become part of our services will enhance (our treatment), because we’ll be giving youth an opportunity to see people who want to give to them, and that will give them so much dignity and pride.”

There’s no doubt what we’ve built here is state of the art and the real beneficiaries will be youth that are here and have opportunity to re-direct their lives as a result. Susan Sullivan

The youth treatment centre will open late next month and is expected to take its first residents in early June.

 

A day in the life

The new youth treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor will be one step in assisting youth across the province who are suffering from severe addictions a chance to turn their lives around.

These sorts of life changes don’t come overnight; the average patient at the treatment centre will live there for around three to six months to get better.

The Advertiser spoke with Byron Boyd and Michelle Sullivan, two Child and Youth Care Supervisors who will be working closely with the patients every day during their treatment to get an idea of what the average day at the new centre would look like.

Boyd said the first day in the facility will be a little different from others, patients will be seen on and off site by medical professionals, assessed for things like withdrawal, and so on.

“Every other day the aim is to make it as home like as possible,” he explained.

Youth will wake up in the morning, have breakfast with the others in their pod, and get ready for their day.

Most of their day will consist of structured programming, which will be a combination of school so the patients keep up on their studies, individual counseling, group counseling, and so on.

The programming aspect of the day, Boyd said, will end late afternoon, around 3 or 3:30 p.m. and the youth will get to enjoy some unstructured time where they can make use of some of the centres facilities like the gym, music room, workout room, do homework, or have some quiet time with their own hobbies. There will also be some supervised off site recreational outings planned throughout the week.

Much like at home, youth will then have their dinners, and then have their bedtime routine, which might consist of some reading or television, followed by lights out to rest up for the next day.

One aspect of treatment according to Sullivan is their life skills program, which will see the youth involved in day-to-day activities such as cooking, grocery shopping, and so on.

“We go about our daily process with the youth, so if we’re cooking breakfast, we’ll pull youth in with us to help us cook breakfast, so in that process they’re learning about nutritional items because we’re working with a nutritionist, they’re learning about the cooking skills part of it,” she said.

For people like Sullivan and Boyd, working closely with the youth on a day-to-day basis they will be responsible for a lot of different tasks, but one of their most important roles is working closely with the youth to cultivate friendship and trust.

“That’s the only way we’re going to work with the young people and try to encourage them and really pump their self worth, because for a lot of these kids, that’s non existent.”

 

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Divided up into three pods with four bedrooms each, the centre will be able to treat 12 youth at a time.

The facility is equipped with several observation and examination rooms as well as bedrooms, kitchen areas, a gymnasium, workout room, art room, and classrooms.

There is also an apartment for families of young people seeking treatment that will help reintegrate them into home life. It has taken almost five years to build the youth treatment centre from conception to completion.

Speaking to the media after the tour, Sullivan said though she had seen the building plans and had a brief tour during the construction phases, today was the first time she had had a detailed tour of the facility.

“Coming in today this was a really exciting time for us, there’s no doubt what we’ve built here is state of the art and the real beneficiaries will be youth that are here and have opportunity to re-direct their lives as a result,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said while the building itself was something to marvel, the staff that will work closely with the youth are world class, bringing many years of experience to the program.

The youth treatment centre is expected to take its first residents in early June. For more on this story, see Thursday’s Advertiser.

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor

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