Campbellton — A new $12.6-million youth treatment facility is slated for construction in Campbellton, N.B., about a 4-hour drive north of anywhere young New Brunswickers can be found.
The decision to situate the mental health centre in Campbellton is being lauded as “economically brilliant” for the struggling northern town; while useless for youth, the centre will be nearly free to run. “We’ve been criticized a bit because with this facility put in a rural ghost-town, it’ll be almost inaccessible to the majority of youth residing in the more urban areas of New Brunswick such as Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton. But think of the savings! If not many young people can make it here, the cost of caring for them will be negligible, and the ones who can make it won’t want to stay long because it’s so boring for them up here,” said Donald Arseneault, who claims the location is also a perfect choice given Campbellton’s track record when it comes to top-notch health care.
A Manatee reporter strolled the streets of Campbellton this morning in search of some youths to interview about the new facility, which is set to open in fall 2016. Since there appeared to be no one under 60 in the city, our reporter was forced to speak to a small group of senior citizens dining at Café Chez Wes on Pleasant Street. “What we need up here is jobs, and that’s the bottom line,” said Rex Dupré, 64. “My kids are grown, and 2 of ’em are even doctors. You think they come and visit me? Heck no — they’re all down in Moncton living the high life. But if there was an open position at a nice new facility here, they might consider coming back.”
Our reporter suggested that Dupré’s children probably left Campbellton for several reasons, not the least of which being the utter lack of other young people and general vitality. “We’ve got what, 2 bars, a Rossy, a pool hall, a Jean Coutu and a Pizza Delight — what more could they want?” retorted Dupré, his friends nodding in agreement. “I told them they can stay on the pull-out couch if need be, so that’s free rent, too. If they’re so hell-bent on having a ‘social life,’ they could come down to the Legion with me on Monday nights. They could do a lot worse.”
Opponents of the plan say placing the facility so close to the Restigouche Hospital Centre — a psychiatric hospital — will only exacerbate the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and the location will make it a tough sell for young doctors. Former youth and child advocate Bernard Richard, one such opponent, canvassed health-care workers earlier this year to see what they wanted in a new facility, and the majority of doctors say they’d like to work with youth in a place where youth actually exist.
Former Liberal health minister Michael Murphy also doesn’t see the sense in the centre’s location, and said the Gallant government is putting “politics first, kids second” with the decision. Murphy pointed the blame for the overly political nature of the decision back to Arseneault, who is the current minister of energy and mines, and represents the riding of Campbellton-Dalhousie in the legislature.
“In this area of the province, we’ve been referred several cases that dealt with youth,” defended Arseneault. “The only reason we’ve never treated them is because we never had the facility. And the only reason we never had the facility is that we’ve never had anything in Campbellton, including youth. But if we build it, they will come. Because, well, they’ll have to.”
News of 35 positions being created in the economically depressed community is spreading fast, but so far no doctors have expressed interest in packing up their homes and families to move to a tiny town with little to offer. Premier Brian Gallant has hinted at a lottery-based selection process whereby doctors’ names will all be put in a hat and the 35 drawn will be forced to move north; The Manatee will post any updates as they become available.