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Ontario government makes over $2 million investment into Five Counties Children's Centre

DAN CEARNS The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: Local organization, Five Counties Children’s Centre received an investment, slightly over $2 million, from the Ontario provincial government, on Thursday, October 12th.

The investment which will see the organization’s provincial funding increase to $2.025 million per year, is part of a provincial commitment of $330 million, towards pediatric health services across Ontario.

Five Counties’ Facebook page explains, the organization “helps children with physical, communication and developmental problems.”

“Five Counties Children’s Centre provides speech, physio and occupational therapies, as well as other kids’ treatment services. Care is provided through Centre sites, in Peterborough, Lindsay, Cobourg, Campbellford and Minden, as well as in area schools and other community settings,” an Ontario government press release added.

Of the $2 million investment, $1.714 million will go towards Community and School-Based Rehabilitation services and $310,625 will be allocated for Preschool Speech and Language services.

Scott Pepin, CEO of Five Counties Children’s Centre, told The Standard, this funding will go a long way towards reducing wait times for families, to access key services.

“It’s a great investment. It’s probably one of our largest single investments we’ve had, since the inception of the organization. What it means is, us being able to get more [children] off the wait list. There are currently about 3,000 [children] waiting for treatment across all of our Counties,” he explained. “We’re trying to get them in as fast as possible, but the funding is going to allow us to hire more staff and grow, as an organization, so we can get more kids in the door.”

The government press release stated, some wait times at Five Counties, currently, “can be as long as 18 [to] 24 months in some cases.”

Mr. Pepin added, another benefit of the funding is, it allows Five Counties to “retain and recruit” staff, “to be more competitive and an employer of choice.”

Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Brock MPP, Laurie Scott, put the investment into perspective.

“It’s a massive investment, [for] when children are children and when the youth are there, so they can take speech pathology, for example. If they learn to communicate [through] the challenges they face, they might see speech pathologists, they might see occupational therapy, it starts increasing their abilities, at a young age, to function later on in life. If you can get them their help now, then [there'll be] less problems for them and their families and maybe the community in the long run.”

MPP Scott also noted “therapy physicians are very hard to recruit,” as there’s “very high demand and short supply in the profession, at the moment.”

The Kawartha Lakes MPP said, the current wait list, in Kawartha Lakes, for services is about 900 children. “This is going to make a huge difference, this amount of money,” she said. “It’s going to make an amazing difference in my riding.”

Scott Pepin said, one of the benefits of holding public funding announcements like this is, it spreads awareness of the existence of Five Counties.

“There’s still families out there [who] don’t know about us, and they may be questioning something, in terms of their child’s development and speech, and they don’t know where to turn. We have a lot of families who don’t have a primary care physician where some of these concerns are first noticed. So, they may not be really discovering where their child is, developmentally, until they start going to school. While that’s not too late, it’s definitely delaying treatment.”

He pointed out, in the last year, Five Counties has seen about a 13 per cent increase in families seeking their services.

“That continues to grow as the population grows,” Mr. Pepin said. “The need is definitely a lot more than it has been in the past.”

The Kawartha Lakes Five Counties site is located at 9 Russell Street East, in Lindsay.

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