Gray County Establishes Mental Health and Addictions Task Force

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Gray County plans to form a task force to identify gaps in local mental health and harm reduction supports and develop strategies to address them.

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Chatsworth Mayor Scott Mackey introduced a motion to a Committee of the Whole on Thursday to create a Mental Health and Addictions Task Force, noting that there is evidence of a “significant increase in the prevalence mental health and addictions issues across the country” as well as concern that access to treatment resources is insufficient to meet local demand.

Mackey said in an interview that his motion, unanimously approved by the board in a recorded vote, was in response to director Selwyn Hicks’ call to action during his inaugural speech in December for the advisors are looking at potential opportunities for Gray to help with mental health and addictions in the area.

“Mental health continues to be a significant issue,” he said.

“I believe if we grow the task force, we can definitely bring in people who are involved in the mental health system right now and the addictions system, that we can collect life experiences from people with a lived experience and see where the gaps are and what opportunities there may be for Gray County to help.

Mackey said the nearly two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated mental health and addiction issues.

He said he would like to see the task force set up soon and get to work immediately to identify gaps in local mental health and addictions supports.

“And what role the county could play in advocating to fill those gaps or possibly take action ourselves to help in this situation,” he said.

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Mackey’s motion notes that access to available resources is key to supporting people with mental health and addictions issues.

He says the task force will identify treatment providers in Gray County, the services they provide and how they are funded.

These organizations will be asked to provide an assessment of gaps in treatment options and current waiting lists for available treatments and how these two issues might be addressed.

The task force will also consider strategies to advocate with different levels of government for increased access and reduced barriers to mental health and addictions services, the motion says.

Through the engagement of stakeholders and partners, the motion says the task force will work to create a local response strategy that identifies “immediate and longer-term priorities specifically designed to support the development of supports mental health and harm reduction strategies for residents of Gray County.

Gray County staff were tasked with preparing terms of reference for the task force to submit to council.

The motion comes two weeks after the county council received a delegation from Phil Dodd, executive director of Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services.

Dodd spoke about the demand for the organization’s services amid the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledged that there are gaps in mental health supports.

Keystone, the agency responsible for children’s mental health in Grey-Bruce, serves 1,600 children, youth and families in the area and currently has 526 open cases in Grey.

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Dodd said the nonprofit prevention and counseling agency has seen an influx of referrals during the pandemic. While he typically received 33 referrals a week, that number peaked at around 60 in recent months, he said.

Children’s mental health services and supports are “chronically underfunded” provincially, he said.

“I know that working with my colleagues at the Canadian Mental Health Association and the mental health department at the hospital, the resources aren’t always there to do everything we want to do,” he said. -he declares.

“We just don’t have the full continuum – the depth and breadth – to do the job that we want to do. We are able to do it, we want to do it. We just don’t have the financial resources to hire staff to do all the work and then the waiting list gets longer and that’s not good for anyone in mental health crisis.

There are also “infrastructure issues” in the system, he said, noting, as an example, that Keystone’s home treatment center in Owen Sound is not wheelchair accessible. . The organization had to send young people to residential programs in Toronto or London because of the problem, he said.

“To me, that’s not acceptable,” Dodd said.

“And we have a plan for that. We are working on a new site for our live processing which will be part of our main office site here in Owen Sound. We have space; we have the possibility of having it on site here. But the funding just isn’t there for that to happen right now.

Keystone is now looking to raise funds so the change can happen, he said.

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