Too close for comfort

Andrew Robinson
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Topsail district MHA Paul Davis (seated, left), Paradise Mayor Ralph Wiseman (standing) and Eastern Health employee Susan MacLeod listen to a member of the audience speak at an information session held Monday night regarding a treatment facility for youth with mental health issues set to be built in the community. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

After nearly two hours of discussion, a clear message was sent by the vast majority of Paradise residents who attended an information session on a new provincial treatment centre for youth with mental health issues proposed for the community: not in our backyard.

“There’s nobody here, I think, that has an issue with this building being built anywhere,” said one woman during the question and answer portion of the meeting held Monday night at the Paradise Rotary Youth Centre. “It is definitely needed. The youth of our province are our future.”

“We need this building no doubt. But we don’t need it in a residential area,” the women said.

That comment was one of several that received substantial applause during the meeting, which often had Mayor Ralph Wiseman on the receiving end of statements bemoaning the town council’s approval-in-principle to locate the centre at the former Paradise Elementary School.

That decision was made at a July 19 council meeting. Shortly thereafter, a tender for Phase 1 of construction for the new facility was announced by the Department of Health and Community Services. It has not yet been awarded, according to Topsail district MHA Paul Davis.

The treatment centre will house a maximum of 12 youth between the ages of 12 and 18 years divided into three living areas. They may be dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among other mental health issues.

Four of the youths considered at risk of hurting themselves or leaving the facility will live in secure treatment, according to Susan MacLeod, the program manager for the facility. McLeod gave a 10-minute presentation outlining the features of the facility prior to opening the floor to questions and comments from the crowd of 70.

The majority of comments from the audience expressed concerns regarding how safe it will be for children in the area to live near a facility housing youth with severe mental health issues.

MacLeod said youth at the centre will not be there because of criminal behaviour, as it is not intended to serve as a youth corrections facility.

The centre will be staffed 24 hours a day, with a minimum of one staff person for every two youth.

“All 12 of the young people will be supervised at all times, so we’ll be hyper vigilant parents,” she said, adding behaviour at the facility will dictate how much the youths can do outside of it.

Colleen Simms, a Department of Health employee, is co-chair of a planning committee for the facility. She said when the committee looked at finding a location for the centre, it wanted to avoid using a hospital setting and, instead, foster a home-like environment.

Finding Crown land to use was also a must, as was finding an aesthetically pleasing area outside of the city that was close to emergency services, she said.

The latter point was questioned openly by one person at the meeting, who noted Paradise does not have a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary detachment or a fire station.

A significant number of those of the meeting expressed dismay over how much publicity was given to the meeting, with most stating they heard about it during the supper news hour on Monday.

One person suggested the Health Department schedule another meeting with more advance notice. Simms said she will bring that suggestion to the attention of Health Minister Jerome Kennedy.

Several people also singled out the town council for not asking the public for input on its decision to give approval-in-principle to letting the facility take over the old school property.

Davis said the engineering and design plan for the facility is still being looked at. Once it is finished, it will come before Paradise town council for another vote.

“As you saw here, there’s a plan in place for staffing to do it properly, with the proper expertise, the proper professionals, and those that are in the position to be able to make this work,” Davis said.

“This is not being built for failure. This is being built to make it work in the best interests of the people within the four walls of that building, and outside the four walls of that building.”

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Paradise Rotary Youth Centre, Department of Health and Community, Health Department Paradise town council

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    October 25, 2011 - 22:27

    Those of you fighting the construction of this building and service in Paradise should be ashamed! These children need our help. This clearly shows a lack of respect for anyone who has, or is suffering from a mental illness, and complete and utter ignorance of the matter. These are our youth that need this facility, and they will be kept under close supervision. They are not wild animals. Remember, neither you or your children are immune to mental illness.

  • mentalhealthworker
    October 25, 2011 - 19:12

    I have never felt so angry about something in the news before. Really people where do you expect them to build a facility like this to? In the middle of no where? They are all worried about the values of their houses lowering and that one guy on the NTV news who said he will need a bat to go to his shed now because "these" people will knock you down for $20 to get a fix, its abvious these people need to be educated more on mental illness. I work in the mental helath feild and feel very strongly about the idiotic comments that some of you are making.......Educate yourselves. I can only imagne youre reaction if you really knew the amount of people already living in your backyards with a mental illness

  • Mike
    October 25, 2011 - 10:20

    I live in a subdivision near this location and attended last night’s meeting. There has been little to no communication to the general public about this and I only happened to stumble upon the notice on the Town of Paradise website while searching for something else. While I live nearby and have some concerns with the location of this facility, I cannot imagine being one of the people who live right next door. Many of these people originally bought these homes due to it being next to the elementary school before it was shut down. While I’m sure most people will agree with the necessity for this facility, nobody can honestly say they would want to live next door to it. Although, our esteemed Mayor, Ralph Wiseman, stated he would be OK with it. Perhaps he would not be so keen if it were being built on Three Island Pond Road. If anybody in that room had any respect for Mr. Wiseman prior to that meeting, I’m willing to bet their opinion has changed. I have never seen a politician dance around questions, deflect blame and show such blatant disregard for public opinion as easily as Mr. Wiseman did last night. Another meeting was requested and he advised that would be up to Eastern Health. When asked whether the Town would hold a meeting to listen to citizen’s concerns, he again deflected to Eastern Health. The man never directly answered a question. Anyway, the bottom line is that, while there is certainly a need for such a facility, it does not belong in a residential neighbourhood. I don’t expect these kids to be sent off in the back woods somewhere, but surely there can be a more suitable location identified. To all you people who are criticizing the people of Paradise, I guess you would be fine if this facility was suddenly your new neighbour. Sure you would!

    • DIBanko
      October 27, 2011 - 08:48

      I would be very okay with it. In fact, our old home in Hamilton, ON was a stones throw from some several half way houses, youth treatment facilities, and other outreach programs. The only problems we had in our neighbourhood were the occasional parties that our neighbours kids would throw. Consider that mental illness will affect 1 in 5 people. The Town of Paradise boasts a population of approximately 17000 people. Here are some links which you and others on this forum may find useful.

  • Paul
    October 25, 2011 - 09:52

    Helping other people sometimes involves risk. We cannot put these facilities in industrial parks or out in the sticks, they must be part of the community. If not "in a residential area".....then where exactly?

  • mean spirited and small minded
    October 25, 2011 - 08:36

    Places like Paradise are the problem with this province. They have most of the young drug addicts in their community, but want St. John's to deal with their kids problems. Downtown has better homes and safer streets and it has programs like this. NIMBY = selfish people destroying their own communities through ignorance. "we need the program" but "not in a residential area" - and where do you want them to live? Desolate island? Industrial park?

  • Donny Dooley Dildo NL
    October 25, 2011 - 08:05

    A mental health centre in the middle of the town of Paradise? Sounds like the perfect place to me! I can't think of another community that could use one more. Bring it on!

  • Matt
    October 25, 2011 - 07:39

    Once again, George Carlin was right. So nice to see the "caring" citizens displaying the NIMBY mentality. They'll pretend to care about the mental health of children, or low-cost housing, or homes for the disabled, but as soon as that encroaches on "their" property, they show their true colours. You can not create an integrated society if you're afraid to, you know, integrate. Better to keep these people out of sight, out of mind, right?

  • carol ann rogers
    October 25, 2011 - 07:36

    I think its the right place for a youth mental health facility in light of the fact and it is a wll known fact that the problems stem from your commmunity spoiled kids with nothing better to do but cause trouble. How many time does the Telegram report youth so and so from Paridise CBS etc involved in criminal activity... setting fires and breaking and entering robbing gas stations etc. the list goes on and your heads stay in the sand.

    • John Saunders
      October 25, 2011 - 09:56

      Hey Carol Ann your comments are foolish, uninformed and you really need to get a life.

  • Wondering
    October 25, 2011 - 07:31

    They all agree that this facility is needed, but now in their community. Narrow minded individuals each and everyone of them. Well, build it in the city of St. John's. We will gladly welcome such a service with open arms. It must be a wonderful feeling to live in Paradise, knowing your children are perfect and will never need such a service!!!

  • Eastcoast
    October 25, 2011 - 07:24

    The people of Paradise should be ashamed of themselves. I'd be willing to bet not one of those attending last night's meeting has a child with a mental health issue. So much for "Paradise" - shame on you!

  • chris ledrew
    October 25, 2011 - 07:03

    Keep this land for a future Jr High School Keep mental health facilities next to other health care facilities as there is lots of land down next to the HSC/janeway makes sense?