Retired staff speak out against cuts to residential youth program at Ontario Shores

Two prominent former staff members at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences are critical of recent cuts to the hospital’s adolescent residential rehab program.

Robert Benner, who worked as the Program Coordinator at the Centre between 1974-1994 says recent changes to the hospital’s adolescent program ignore the lessons of the past.

“The success of the programs were built on a foundation of experience, ongoing modifications and adjustments based on the needs of clients and families and advances in children’s mental health,” he says. “The complexity of the clients often required individual programming that was tailored to meet their needs.”

While the current program relies on team-based care, Ontario Shores is eliminating 28 of the Child and Youth Workers on the unit and replacing them with a smaller number of nurses – mostly RPNs.

Benner says adolescents and their families received high-quality services for 40 years from a group of dedicated child and youth workers, nurses, psychologist and social workers.  This interdisciplinary team provided services to adolescents with the most complex needs in the province.

“The staffing changes 40 years ago were spearheaded by the Ministry of Health who identified a need for a discipline that was more focused on the unique needs of children and adolescents,” he says.

Benner says child and youth workers bring a unique set of skills that allow them to assess and design individual programs that address a wide range of skills – something other disciplines do not necessarily have the training to address.

Jim Martin worked for Ontario Shores from 1981 to 2003.  While most of those 23 years were spent as a Child and Youth Counsellor, he spent his final years before retirement as program facilitator in the Adolescent Residential Rehab program.  He says he was disappointed and saddened to hear the program was under attack.

“As many in the children’s mental health field know, that unique program was a place of last resort for teens with very serious complex mental health issues,” he writes in an open letter.

Martin says for every referral admitted into the program, there were two or three who were deemed appropriate but could not be accommodated due to a lack of beds.

“They were very difficult decisions to make,” he writes. “These weren’t just names in a file. They were young people, families and agencies who had reached the end of their rope trying to find adequate resources to address urgent needs.”

Martin says there needs to more long-stay adolescent rehab beds, not fewer.

To read Jim Martin’s letter (and others) go to:

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