Sarnia-Lambton Community Girls' Home to shut doors March 2011

SARNIA, ON, April 22 /CNW/ - After 37 years of providing therapeutic care and shelter for adolescent girls the Community Girls' Home will close its residential doors for good on March 31, 2011, workers at the facility have learned.

"We are shocked by this development," said Craig McKenzie, vice president of Local 145 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents 18 staff at the facility.

"This is certain to have a negative ripple effect in Sarnia-Lambton and to the service system in general. The young women who find shelter and safe-keeping at the Community Girls' Home are among the most vulnerable young people in our community."

The announced closure is the latest set-back to community based children's mental health services in Ontario which, unlike other government services for children and youth, like the Children's Aid Society, is not a legislatively-mandated service.

Despite a 34 per cent increase in the number of children accessing mental health services in Sarnia-Lambton in the past year, the agency has not received any new funding in the 2010-11 provincial budget - a pattern that has been in place for 14 of the past 17 years.

This crisis in under-funding is forcing some families to wait four or more months before their children are able to access counselling.

"What we have witnessed is chronic neglect by the McGuinty government and its predecessors," said McKenzie. "The closure of the Community Girls' Home residential program is ripping apart the safety net for some of the most at-risk children and youth in Sarnia-Lambton. Instead of receiving support locally, many families will now be forced to send their children away for residential treatment service.

"The conditions here are outrageous and causing needless strain on families."

McKenzie said the province must develop a long-term funding strategy that will eliminate the need to shut down local services. One in five children and young people in Ontario have a mental health disorder, but only 25 per cent of those are able to access service.

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: For further information: Craig McKenzie, Vice-President, OPSEU Local 145, St. Clair Child & Youth Services, Tel: (519) 337-3701 ext 230, Cell: (519) 466-1881; Deborah Gordon, Chair, OPSEU Child Treatment Sector, Tel: (519) 337-3701 x222, Cell: (510) 520-2491

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