Treatment centre lobbying for funding

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The Children’s Treatment Centre of Chatham-Kent is in hurry-up-and-wait mode in terms of their quest for a new building.

They’ve done the hurry up: The community fundraising and support has been fast and very forthcoming.

But now they are waiting for their funding ministry, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, to catch up.

Donna Litwin-Makey, executive director of the centre, said the Children’s Treatment Centre has continuously requested government funding since 2011 for a new building due to significant caseload and program growth, and to provide the best service and facility for our community.

It enacted its Butterfly Build campaign and the donations from local sources began pouring in.

Treatment centre officials found property on McNaughton Avenue West in 2017 to erect the new 50,000 square foot facility.

Litwin-Makey said the centre has the support from local MPP Rick Nicholls and MPP Monte McNaughton, as well as the municipality.

But funding support from the province is still awaited.

“It’s been a long road. Children’s treatment centres have unique paths,” Litwin-Makey explained. “They are more one-off approvals. There is not a budget line within our funding ministry that addresses new builds. Each time, the circumstances are different.”

Due to the efficiency of local fundraising and the support from the community, the waiting game is now in place.

“Part of the complexity is that we were asked to demonstrate there is acceptance and support in the community, including a local fundraising commitment and to have a spot to expand to,” Litwin-Makey said. “We did both of those and I think we moved along very quickly. Chatham-Kent is very supportive. But in larger urban centres, they have been fundraising (for new buildings) a lot longer. Perhaps we moved along faster than expected.”

To help encourage the province to provide funding to begin the build, the centre has client and family ambassadors reaching out asking for letters of support.

Past clients and current centre ambassadors Ashley Gialelem and Cristian Picard know first hand the need for a new centre.

“It’s time for a new Children’s Treatment Centre for a brighter tomorrow,” Picard said.

“Our voices need to be heard. I know we can do this together,” Gialelem said.

Anyone interested in contributing a support letter can visit https://ctc-ck.com/family-advocacy/, or call 519-354-0520, ext. 158 to receive assistance.

Litwin-Makey said the people of Chatham-Kent continually step up to support various causes, including the centre’s Butterfly Build campaign.

“We have such an amazing community. We have broad community support and have been very successful with our local fundraising,” she said. “Now, it’s time to advocate to make sure our needs for our kids and families are addressed.”

The current centre was built to serve 250 kids. It serves caseloads totalling 4,980 children and youth with hundreds more waiting for programs.

Litwin-Makey, said the current 25,000 square-foot building on Lark Street was built in 1984 and renovated in 1998.

It’s reached the point where there isn’t space to accommodate all the programs the centre runs, as staff are forced to go offsite to use other space in some cases.

Litwin-Makey said in 2011, caseloads had risen to 2.5 times what they were after the last renovation in 1998, and the centre saw a 40-per-cent increase in staffing levels.

Since that time, she said they’ve averaged 400 new families a year and have increased staffing by an additional 20 per cent.

“We need more group space, more space for teens and youth, bigger rooms that are multi-purpose. It’s a different kind of space than what we needed in the past,” Litwin-Makey said.

She said there is not much more they can do to make use of their existing space.

“We keep our building in good shape, but we have a number of very small individual treatment rooms. We’ve had to convert things for offices. Storage is a problem,” she said. “We need to move furniture a lot. People kind of climb over each other.”

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