FREDERICTON (CNB) - Staying Connected: A Report of the Task Force on a Centre of Excellence for Children and Youth with Complex Needs was released today by Shirley Smallwood, the parent of a child with complex needs, and by Bernard Richard, ombudsman and child and youth advocate.

Smallwood and Richard worked as co-chairs of a task force responsible for the report, which was requested by the departments of health, education, public safety and social development in order to determine how best to proceed with the establishment of a centre of excellence for children and youth with complex needs.

"The children and youth with the most complex needs in our province are falling through the cracks," said Richard. "New Brunswick does not currently provide adequate services for children with mental health needs, and all too often, these kids end up in jail.

“A handful of New Brunswick youth have obtained residential support outside of the province, but at an exorbitant public expense,” he said. “We need a centre of excellence that will provide the intensive treatment required by some children, and that can also co-ordinate a network of services located all over our province."

Smallwood and Richard were tasked with making recommendations regarding what services the centre of excellence should provide, what services should be made accessible in communities across the province to support the work of the centre, where the centre should be located and how it should be governed. They gathered public opinion on these matters through an online consultation process and at a provincial dialogue session held in Fredericton last November. They also met individually with stakeholders, and in particular sought out the opinions of children and youth in various care settings, and their families and caregivers.

The report emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary, family-centric approaches. While the report recommends that the centre should have some residential capacity to accommodate youth in crises, Smallwood and Richard recommend its research and clinical focus be on helping families, service providers and communities work together in providing more support to children and youth with complex needs in their own homes.

"Staying Connected is a result of many people coming together to help redesign the way New Brunswick provides supports and services to our most vulnerable population: children and youth with complex needs," said Smallwood. "This report highlights the value of an integrated service delivery system that is child-centred and, equally important, family-focused. It is being respectfully submitted in the name of all children and youth with complex needs as we attempt to provide a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves."

Copies of the report are available online. To request a paper copy, call 1-888-465-1100 or e-mail nbombud@gnb.ca.


Highlights:

Services

●    The centre of excellence's main focus will be on helping children and youth with complex needs stay healthy in their family environments while providing step-up clinical interventions in small residential settings and step-down services to help bring about that goal.
●    The centre will work seamlessly with the integrated service delivery framework to ensure interdisciplinary processes and collaboration among all public sector departments, the non-profit sector and communities in providing services to children and youth with complex needs and all others along the continuum of needs.
●    The centre's services will be supported in communities through therapeutic foster homes with appropriately trained staff under the clinical direction of the centre's experts.
●    The report calls for new legislation and development of better information sharing practices among all service providers involved in the care of children with complex needs.

Location

●    The centre will give families and communities across the province and beyond access to leading edge clinical and research services for children and youth with complex needs.
●    The centre should be supported through endowed research chairs in the province's main university campuses in Moncton and Fredericton.
●    The centre should have a residential treatment capacity concentrated in the Moncton region but also available in other communities around the province.

Governance

●    The centre should be operated as an independent public agency with its own annual appropriations process and diversified revenue streams.
●    Services could be available to residents from around the Atlantic region on the basis of a cost-sharing agreement.
●    Partnering with the private sector, non-profit sector, municipal sector and university research sector is strongly encouraged.
●    The centre should be established in a cost-effective manner through the re-allocation of resources obtained through efficiencies in service integration, information sharing and telemedicine.

LINK:

●    Office of the Ombudsman: www.gnb.ca/ombudsman