Joan Wilson right is recognized with applause for her 35 years working for Point in Time Centre for Children Youth and Parents and its previous iterations during the annual general meeting on June 9 held over the Zoom videoconferencing app. She was presented with a plaque during the meeting by Michelle Wolfe-Miscio left who did so at a safe distance. /Screenshot

Combatting isolation and anxiety during a pandemic

Point in Time in strong financial position following 2019 fiscal year AGM attendees hear

By Jenn Watt

What would have been the standout accomplishment of the last year for Point in Time Centre for Children Youth and Parents has been in the last few months overshadowed by the unprecedented challenges posed by the global coronavirus pandemic. And in the wake of the isolation and anxiety it has brought staff and volunteers have stepped up said the organization’s executive director Marg Cox during her report at the annual general meeting on June 9.

The meeting was held via videoconferencing and included more than 50 attendees who heard about the new issues faced by service providers as well as the causes for celebration including the launch of the Haliburton County Youth Wellness Hub and the dedication of staff.

“We know that the opening of the youth hub [in February] and physically opening our doors having our grand opening was anti-climatic compared to what youth are going through in our community now. … People are physically isolated. Mental health issues that were pre-existing have often been retriggered” Cox said adding that at least one in five children and youth will experience mental health issues.

In the last year Point in Time has provided counselling services to 273 children youth and families 243 children and families have received early intervention services and 124 children participated in the Summer Adventure Day Camp offered through the organization. Overall 893 children and youth were served through various programs.

The county’s residents have been struggling board president Sandy Adams said during the meeting on Tuesday.

“We have watched members of our own community struggle with anxiety and job loss financial stressors health concerns all while trying to determine how to keep themselves and those they love safe in light of unprecedented health and public restrictions. But here at Point in Time like so many other essential services children’s mental health needed to be cared for families needed to be listened to and our people needed to be kept safe” Adams said.

Staff have been using technology to connect with clients using phone video apps and text messages. In a joint message in Point in Time’s annual report Cox and Adams highlighted how the organization has distributed gift certificates for food gas phone usage and technology; promoted the resource; and participated in a working group on a used phone and tablet drive and to increase access to internet hotspots.

“[The lyrics to] Joni Mitchell’s song – ‘You don’t realize what you’ve had till it’s all gone’ – makes us appreciate the important role that the youth hub family fun night and respite services play in people’s lives” the report states. “We hope that when this [pandemic] is over and we are able to reopen those programs that we all realize the importance even more that social contact and supporting each other has.”

The pandemic has brought a few silver linings the members heard. Among them a lessening of stigma around mental health issues as more people seek support; better understanding of the possibilities of new technology; and people working better together.

Cox also pointed out that for some having the guaranteed monthly income from the government has actually lessened their anxiety “because for the first time they’re receiving a stable income.”

She said policymakers should pay attention to that outcome and take it into consideration when determining “the importance of a living wage for people.”

“[I]t has made such a huge difference in people’s lives when they’re not necessarily struggling to find out where the next meal comes from and actually have some stability. It actually can go a long way to improving our community and everyone’s best interest” Cox said.

The AGM also included an update on the organization’s finances which Jason Becker of BDO Canada called healthy and in good order. “At the end of the year Point in Time had a surplus of just over $190000. This combined with the surplus from the previous year were used to finish the Youth Wellness Hub project pay off the mortgage and still be able to put aside about $90000 for future budget and expansion needs” he said.

The annual report shows revenue of about $2.5 million in the 2019 fiscal year and expenses of about $2.3 million.

Several people were also acknowledged at the meeting for their commitment and long service. Shelby MacMillan marked five years as part of the youth justice team and was noted by Cox as a tech guru. Cathy Constantino was recognized for 10 years in which she worked in several programs including family support early intervention and family fun night. Kelly Harrison has chalked up 25 years with the organization as a data specialist noted for her knowledge of the agency and community. Ed Galati is a project manager who Cox recognized for his ability to juggle multiple issues at once is readily accessible and committed to the county’s youth. Dr. Kevin Nugent has worked as a consulting psychiatrist for 19 years for Point in Time who was thanked for his invaluable contributions to youth and families. Stephanie MacLaren VP at Haliburton Highlands Health Services was also recognized for managing logistics for transportation to the youth hub and her leadership of the service provider network. Miranda Marles was acknowledged as a board member who brings strong insights to her role and contributes her perspectives as a teacher and parent.

A special presentation was also made to Joan Wilson who is retiring after 35 years of service.

“Over the years she has mentored many in numerous therapeutic modalities supervised coached completed psychological assessments provided outstanding counselling and support and played a critical role in leading the agency in accreditation and helping to lead and direct the agency” the annual report states.

Wilson was surprised by the honour and members watched online as she was presented with a plaque by Michelle Wolfe-Miscio (at an appropriate physical distance).

“It’s been quite a ride. It really has” she said. “…My roles have changed over the years and I’ve learned so much from so many great people that I’ve worked with. It’s just been such a rich experience. It’s been so important.”

Someone on the call yelled out “we love you Joan!”

“You’re making me cry. And I didn’t expect this” she said.