No sign of promised youth mental health centre in Moncton
Provincial government announced last December centre would open in Moncton instead of Campbellton
The status of a planned youth mental health centre is uncertain 10 months after the province announced it would not open at a partially complete building in Campbellton and instead would open in Moncton.
Health Minister Ted Flemming announced the change at a press conference in December and told reporters that former New Brunswick ombud and youth advocate Bernard Richard would help find a location in Moncton.
"I'm hopefully some work is being done, but I have not been involved in any of it," Richard said in an interview.
Flemming would not provide an interview last week, with the province claiming the government remains in "caretaker mode" following the election.
Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the health department, wrote in an email that it is "undergoing a process to review the mandate and bed requirements" for a centre in Moncton.
Macfarlane said there's no timeline for the centre to be complete.
"It does beg the question, what exactly has been done?" Richard said after CBC News read the statement to him.
"Who's working on that? Is someone working on it? Is it completely internal? Is there consultation with any of the community organizations out there who work with children and youth?"
He wondered whether aborted cuts to service at rural hospitals and the pandemic may have delayed work on the centre, but emphasized he could only speculate since he's not been involved.
The centre, Richard said, is an important project that's needed to address youth mental healthcare in the province.
Richard issued a report in 2011 calling for a centre to be constructed in an urban centre near a university research facility, close to specialized services and in a place where recruitment and retention would be easy.
Construction of the $14.4-million building was about 90 per cent complete when work was halted by the Progressive Conservative government as it reviewed the plan.
Flemming boasted in December that the change in plans showed the province would listen to experts like Richard.
He said the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure was already looking for space for the centre in Moncton.
"That will be done in cooperation with Mr. Richard and they are on that concurrently as we speak," Flemming said.
That was news to Richard, who said he hasn't been involved in the work.
Norm Bossé, the province's child and youth advocate, says his office has heard nothing more from the province since the December announcement.
Bossé wants to meet with the health department to talk about the centre once a new cabinet is in place.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an effect on the implementation of this plan I am sure," Bossé said in an email.
Macfarlane, the health department spokesperson, said an interim youth centre is running at the Restigouche Hospital Centre.
Campbellton-Dalhousie MLA Guy Arseneault also said he's heard nothing further on the relocation since December, but said his understanding is that the interim location is running well.
He's been critical of the decision to move the centre away from Campbellton.
"The worst part about all of this is that it's delaying services for our youth in an ultra-modern site," Arseneault said.
Richard said the decision to relocate the centre was the right call, and hopes the province follows through.
"I really think that the emphasis should be on services rather than beds and infrastructure," Richard said.
Flemming said in December the province would spend $10 million in 2020-21 to re-purpose the partly finished Campbellton building to offer residential addiction rehabilitative treatment.