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Sep. 21, 2019 | Saturday
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Pathstone brings free youth mental health clinics to NOTL
Pathstones Mental Health formed a partnership with Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Town council, the Lord Mayor Youth Advisory Council, Red Roof Retreat and Niagara Community Foundation to make the satellite youth mental health clinic in NOTL a reality. (supplied)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is getting a badly needed once-a-week free youth mental health clinic starting in September.

Pathstone Mental Health has partnered with the Niagara Community Foundation, the Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, NOTL town council and Red Roof Retreat to bring free Monday counselling sessions, called the Hear and Now Walk-In Clinic, to NOTL youth.

The NOTL clinic will open on Sept. 9 at Red Roof Retreat, 1594 Concession 6 Rd., and will be open every Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with the last appointment taken at 6 p.m. Up-to-date wait times and locations of clinics can be found online.

Clinics are open to youth up to 18 years old, and families are welcome. Kids can come with or without their parents and don’t need health cards or appointments to be seen.

“This is an initiative that was in Pathstone’s strategic plan to open up walk-in clinics to be able to reach out to clients who may not be able to get to us in St. Catharines,” said Kim Rossi, Pathstone’s director of philanthropy and public relations.

Pathstone’s Branscombe Mental Health Centre on Fourth Avenue in St. Catharines offers walk-in services five days a week. The centre isn’t easily accessible to other communities, Rossi said, which is why the satellite clinics were established in Welland, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Niagara Falls and Beamsville.

Niagara-on-the-Lake and Grimsby will join them in two weeks.

“To access services here is not always feasible for many. So, we wanted to create clinics that they could go to in their own neighbourhoods,” Rossi said.

Bethany Poltl, chair of the lord mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, has been working hard to focus on mental health awareness for NOTL youth, she said in an email response.

“Having approximately 3,000 young people in NOTL, and now having a free mental health service for them to access is such a positive action in our awareness and reaching out to all youth,” Poltl said.

“Now we need to follow through,” she said, adding that everyone, including parents, schools, coaches and teachers, need to be on board with the initiative to provide mental health services to NOTL youth, and to advertise and make kids aware of the clinic.

“And I would encourage young people to go and find out what our clinic has to support them,” Poltl added.

Rossi said she met with Lord Mayor Betty Disero to discuss the idea of a walk-in clinic in NOTL. Disero was on board immediately, she said. Once the town was willing to work on making the clinic a reality, Rossi said the organization needed to find the funding to support it.

After speaking with Bryan Rose, executive director of the Niagara Community Foundation, she learned of money specifically allocated for NOTL health care. Rossi brought the foundation, the town and the youth advisory committee together to bring the clinic to life, with Red Roof Retreat donating the space for the weekly sessions.

“I hope that every youth will see this as a place they can go to ask questions, learn strategies, and find answers,” Poltl said in a media release.

After speaking with Disero, and getting the board to match the foundation’s funding, a two-year commitment was made, with the clinic launching this fall.

 “Niagara Community Foundation came to the table with $10,000. Betty’s council and youth advisory committee came to the table with the other $10,000 for this year and next year. So, it’s sort of like a matching gift that they’ve partnered on,” she said.

The free youth clinics will have marketing material in every school, clinic and community partner location so kids are aware of the mental health services available to them.

“We called it Hear and Now. That was the goal. It’s a clinic that hears what you want to talk about, right now. So, it’s an immediate response to any issues you’re having,” she said.

Rossi said they wanted to keep the space as available and welcoming as possible, providing kids with an outlet to discuss whatever is bothering them in the moment.

“I can’t compartmentalize what the walk-in is. If you have a concern that you want to talk about, it doesn’t matter what it is. It could be minor to someone else but major to you, we’ll see those people,” she said.

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