The building of the new youth treatment centre in Paradise has been about far more than bricks and mortar. The journey of getting it off the ground over the past several years, from concept to reality, took vision, detailed planning and unwavering dedication to improving the services provided to children and youth with complex mental health needs in Newfoundland and Labrador.
From the first announcement about a proposed centre in Paradise in 2010, to awarding the contract for construction in 2012, with each step we eagerly inched closer to opening our doors and achieving this goal.
Once construction was underway, the next step was to hire staff with a variety of skills to help the youth we would serve, including:
- child and youth care supervisors,
- social workers,
- a psychologist and psychiatrist,
- a nurse practitioner,
- art, music, occupational and recreation therapists
- a food operations supervisor,
- a domestic worker,
- a clerical team, and
- child and youth care counsellors.
With a very diverse and highly skilled team on board, it was then time to immerse ourselves in training. Over 40 training sessions were held to ensure that the youth residing at our centre would receive the best possible care and treatment. Training covered a wide scope of information and skill-sets, including first aid, cultural competence, safe food handling, safe search practices, applied suicide intervention skills training, therapeutic crisis intervention, and more.
In August of this year, we received word that we could move into the building. It was a very exciting and emotional time for all of us as we were one step closer to helping youth with mental health needs.
Once we were settled, employees of the centre offered tours to other Eastern Health employees, our community partners and others. On September 24, 2014, we held our official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony, including a barbeque and tours for community residents. It was a great event with a great turnout!
We were joined by the Honourable Paul Davis, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Steve Kent, who is now Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Community Services, other members of the provincial government, the senior executive team of Eastern Health, our Board Chair, Michael O’Keefe, and our interim President and CEO, Don Keats.
At this event, the Paradise youth treatment centre was lauded for providing much-needed mental health services and supports to the youth of Newfoundland and Labrador, allowing them to remain close to their homes, friends and families.
The youth treatment centre has capacity for 12 young people between the ages of 12 and 18, who can stay at the facility for up to 12 months, depending on individual need.
Our residents come from a wide variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds and struggle with an array of complex mental health issues, including:
- bipolar disorder,
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and
- self-harming behaviour.
Ultimately, our aim at the facility is to provide these young people with a supportive and therapeutic environment where they will develop the tools needed to meet their goals and successfully transition home following treatment.
On November 4, 2014, we welcomed our first residents to the youth treatment centre.
We currently have five young people staying at the facility and several additional referrals are being processed. It is a very busy time but youth are settling in well.
“I am immensely proud of the efforts of all staff to ensure the centre is a welcoming environment for our youth residents, both in terms of the physical space but even more so by the warmth, kindness, positivity and professionalism that each staff person brings to work with them every day,” says Susan MacLeod, program manager for the youth treatment centre.
The centre is a safe environment which provides structure and routine for its residents, with programming that includes therapeutic recreation, art and music therapy and an onsite school.
“The programming at the centre is a critical component of the care we provide our residents and I want to sincerely thank our staff for their contributions to the development of these programs and also for their overall commitment to the young people we work with,” continues Susan.
It has been a busy and exciting two years filled with countless learning experiences and we are pleased to have been a part of the development of this facility. Our team looks forward to working with our new residents along with all other young people who will come through our doors.
In many ways, this new building signals that the journey is just beginning for us and more importantly, for the youth we serve. We couldn’t be more ready and eager to work with them in the days and years ahead to help build a solid foundation for them too! ■
This story was written by Melissa Canning, a Child and Youth Care Counsellor at the Youth Treatment Centre in Paradise, NL.