WHITBY – Twenty-eight full and part-time child and youth workers are facing layoff at Ontario Shores (formerly Whitby Mental Health Centre) despite four decades of success with some of the province’s most difficult to place youth.
The Ontario Shores Adolescent Residential Rehab program has turned around the lives of youth who had previously found the province’s mental health system a revolving door. The program provides therapy to youth for periods of up to six months in a residential setting. Most of the youth in the program have had three to seven prior hospitalizations. Last year there was an average wait of 44 days to get into the program.
While the hospital has told patient family members that the program is merging with the shorter stay transition program, the large layoff suggests the staff mix is being altered away from highly trained child and youth workers to more general health care nursing staff.
“These workers graduate from a three year accredited program that looks at everything from child-protection legislation and children’s rights to therapeutic recreational programming and advanced therapeutic interventions,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “They will be soon replaced by general nursing staff who have been given very little of this specific training. How does that improve quality?”
The union is also concerned that fewer long term beds will be available for youth in need.
Two-thirds of youth in the program come from outside the boundaries of the Local Health Integration Network, suggesting how unique it is within the province’s mental health continuum.
The union is concerned that lives are being endangered by a short-sighted move that will likely not save money.
“For these youth, this program ended the revolving door,” says Thomas. “Instead any minimal savings from this action will likely be multiplied many times over as costs to elsewhere in the system.”
OPSEU has written to the Minister of Health and Long Term Care asking that the program be left intact and expanded to meet need. It has also asked the Minister to assure families that quality of care will not be jeopardized by replacing these skilled workers with staff who do not possess similar skill sets.
Coverage from CHEX-TV: