Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski spoke very passionately with Council on Tuesday, March 8th, preparing the group for a presentation from a health care facilitator on opening a teen mental health clinic in the town. Mayor Sobolewski wanted to take the opportunity to display his support behind the clinic, as well as, prepare Council with the idea of approving $25,000 a year, for two years, to get the clinic operational.
Mayor Sobolewski notes that in the Lakeland there’s no where for people with mental illnesses to turn, “particularly with the funding cutbacks and the way things have gone with the Provincial Government over the past ten years, there’s really has been a degradation of services. When you listen to the doctors and the medical practitioners and people in the medical health services, in particular with youth, there’s an absence of resources for them.”
This is a project I am really passionate about. – Gene Sobolewski Mayor of Bonnyville
The need for the clinic came to the Mayor’s attention indirectly, explains Sobolewski, “as a result of our Doctor Recruitment Committee, we formed a Mental Health Steering Committee and this (the teen mental health clinic) was one of the main targets that came out of it.” A group of eight local doctors have already commitment to helping get the clinic open and running it. These doctors told the group they average one teen per day visiting the emergency room for mental health related issues. “The more you start digging into it, the more you realize how badly needed the coordination of services is. That’s why this navigator is so badly needed.”
Ideally, the clinic will be funded by four partner; the two local school boards (Northern Lights School Division & Lakeland Catholic School District), the Town and the Municipal District (MD) of Bonnyville. The MD approved their portion of the funding at their past Council meeting, on Wednesday, March 9th. The money would support one full-time navigator position. This person would handle appointments, administration, and coordinating other clinic operations. The clinic would be open one day a week, to teens, with the hope to expand clinic hours, as well as, open to adults.
“We have to start somewhere,” Mayor Sobolewski says the Steering Committee hopes to expand the clinic but need to get it running to start with. “We’re really trying to determine what the need is, we’re starting with a day a week and if we need more, than we can build our case.” The clinic would ideally be for everybody, no matter where they live, “that was one of the big messages that the physicians really wanted to bring forward, they don’t turn anybody away. Mental Health has no boundaries, if somebody comes to emerg from out of town or anywhere, there’s no boundaries. What we need is the adequate resources to provide treatment for them.”
I don’t anticipate it will be much of an issue for the Town to approve funding. – Gene Sobolewski Mayor of Bonnyville
“We’d like to get the funding where it’s supposed to come from, which is AHS (Alberta Health Services). We’re going to basically take on the role of proving that it’s necessary and then advocating as municipalities,” Mayor Sobolewski and the partner anticipate to fund the clinic for two years before AHS will recognize its need and hopefully take over funding. This is a similar to how the region started the Lakeland Centre for FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).
Mayor Sobolewski says with the MD, the Town will continue to advocate for funding more mental health programs and facilities, this clinic. “I’m incredibly passionate about [the clinic] and every time I speak to Ministers, that passion starts to ooze out of me. The MD and us, have a unique relationship with our physician and health care practitioners, they know they have an advocate in their municipalities. That’s part of the strength of the collaborative approach.”
It’s hard to rationalize how some of these decisions are made and fathom AHS would target things like mental health as areas [AHS] would slash & dash funding. -Gene Sobolewski Mayor of Bonnyville
Council will welcome a health care practitioner at the March 22nd meeting to speak about the role of the navigator position and the need for the clinic. Following the presentation it is expected that Council will vote on whether or not they will put in $25,000 a year for two years to help fund the clinic. Mayor Sobolewski anticipates the vote to fall in favour of the funding the clinic.