Pro­fes­sion­als get­ting help

Strate­gies for help­ing with youth men­tal health

The Gananoque Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE wlowrie@post­media.com

The tragic death of 33-year-old Matt Roke was very much on the minds of men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als at a pub­lic sym­po­sium this week.

On May 2, 2012, Roke, a schiz­o­phrenic, was shot to death in Mait­land by Prescott OPP after he threat­ened po­lice with a knife. Po­lice were re­spond­ing to a call that Roke had ear­lier threat­ened his mother Jody with the same knife. The of­fi­cers were ex­on­er­ated in the shoot­ing.

A coro­ner’s in­quest later made 38 rec­om­men­da­tions on how po­lice and health men­tal au­thor­i­ties could bet­ter deal with cases sim­i­lar to Roke’s, in­clud­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion that health pro­fes­sion­als hold an­nual sem­i­nars to in­form par­ents and the pub­lic of what re­sources are avail­able to help peo­ple strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness.

Hence about two dozen peo­ple gath­ered at St. Mary’s Catholic High School this week to trade in­for­ma­tion about the re­sources avail­able for trou­bled youth. It was the sec­ond an­nual fo­rum to be held based on the coro­ner’s rec­om­men­da­tion. Last year, health pro­fes­sion­als out­lined the pro­grams avail­able for adults. This year, they fo­cused on youth ser­vices.

Jody Roke, Matt’s mother who at­tended the fo­rum with her hus­band John, briefly spoke to the par­tic­i­pants, say­ing she planned to at­tend the fo­rums ev­ery year. She said she knows the rec­om­men­da­tions of the coro­ner’s re­port by heart and she of­ten car­ries the re­port with her.

“I plan to be here ev­ery year and I hope that over time things get bet­ter and bet­ter,” she said.

There were few mem­bers of the pub­lic at the fo­rum this week, but the ones who did at­tend learned there is an abun­dance of help avail­able to Leeds and Grenville youth who are grap­pling with men­tal health or ad­dic­tion is­sues. All they have to do is ask for it.

Chil­dren’s Men­tal Heath of Leeds and Grenville; La­nark, Leeds and Grenville Addictions and Men­tal Health; RNJ Youth Ser­vices; and Con­nec­tions gave pre­sen­ta­tions on the avail­able ser­vices.

Kim Bur­son of Chil­dren’s Men­tal Health said her agency of­fers free, con­fi­den­tial ser­vices for chil­dren from zero to 18 at five lo­ca­tions across the coun­ties – Brockville, Gananoque, Kemptville, Prescott and El­gin. The coun­sel­lors can travel to other lo­ca­tions as well, and they of­fer evening ap­point­ments, Bur­son said.

The agency en­cour­ages an all-fam­ily ap­proach to ther­apy, but chil­dren over the age of 12 can also seek help on their own, she said. Bur­son said there usu­ally is no wait­ing list.

“The fam­ily is the an­swer to their chil­dren’s prob­lems,” said Bur­son, adding that the agency prefers to work with all mem­bers of the fam­ily.

The agency re­ceives up­ward of 100 new clients a month, mean­ing it car­ries a caseload of 1,200 to 1,300 youth say ear, she said.

Karen Hall of La­nark, Leeds and Gre­ville Addictions and Men­tal Health, said her agency of­fers men­tal health ser­vices to youths aged 16 and up, and ad­dic­tion ser­vices for peo­ple of any age.

All of the pro­grams that the agency of­fers to adults – coun­selling, some hous­ing op­tions, health and well­ness and vo­ca­tional pro­gram­ing–areal soavail­able to youths, Hall said.

Addictions coun­sel­lor Steve McAvoy said the agency takes a “non­judg­men­tal” ap­proach to drug use, fo­cus­ing in­stead on harm­re­duc­tion.

RNJ Youth Ser­vices gets in­volved with youths who are in dan­ger of be­com­ing in­volved with the jus­tice sys­tem but who aren’t there yet, Tracy Doyle said.

They­must be re­ferred to the In­ter sec­tions pro­gram by po­lice, she said. The­p­o­lice re­ceive calls from par­ents who can’ t han­dle their kids any­more, she said. The kids re­fused to go to school, or to even get out of bed, for ex­am­ple.

Const. Mark Hef­fer­nan of the Brockville Po­lice Ser­vice said RNJ is a place where they can re­fer chil­dren who haven’ t been charged with crimes. By the time a youth gets into the jus­tice sys­tem, Hef­fer­nan said, they of­ten have had 30 or 50 ear­lier con­tacts with po­lice. The idea of the RNJ pro­gram is to catch them early and get them help be­fore they reach the courts, he said.

He ff er nan said the early in­ter­ven­tion pro­gram has been very suc­cess­ful, with 90 to 95 per­cent of the youths never en­ter­ing the jus­tice sys­tem.

Hef­fer­man said the Con­nec­tions pro­gram op­er­ates at the Bethel Chris­tian Re­formed Church on Wind­sor Drive for kids who drop out of school or whoare sus­pended from class. The pro­gram gives the youths a place to go and con­nects them with acommunity, he­said. The youth might play shuf­fle­board with se­niors or vol­un­teer to help in the day­care, for ex­am­ple, he­said.

After the pre­sen­ta­tions, Jody Roke said she was pleased by the re­sults.

“I think you do a beau­ti­ful job,” she told the pre­sen­ters. “I don’t think that any­body could fall through the cracks with all of that.”

WAYNE LOWRIE/ POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Youth work­ers, men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als and oth­ers lis­ten at a fo­rum on youth men­tal health.

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