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This article was published 10/9/2018 (867 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg-based non-profit is spearheading efforts to open a mental health treatment centre for children on the corner of the Portage and Main intersection.

Carmyn Aleshka, founder of the local non-profit Upside Down Tree, said when she learned children struggling with mental illness sometimes face a six-month waiting period before accessing treatment, she knew something needed to be done.

UPSIDE DOWN TREE</p><p>A local non-profit is aiming to have KidThink, a mental health treatment facility for children ages five to 12, up and running by spring or early summer 2019 at Portage and Main in Winnipeg.</p>


A local non-profit is aiming to have KidThink, a mental health treatment facility for children ages five to 12, up and running by spring or early summer 2019 at Portage and Main in Winnipeg.

After digging into the issue further, Aleshka believed there was a dire need for accessible, early intervention into childhood mental illness. That sparked the creation of KidThink, a soon-to-be treatment centre and outreach program aimed at improving mental health services for young children.

"We did research across the country and, in terms of the intensiveness of what we’ll be offering and the accessibility of it, there wouldn’t be anything else of this kind in the country," Aleshka said.

Once built, the facility will provide clinical treatment for children ages five to 12. Staff will also engage in community outreach with teachers and pediatricians, and help research new treatment and diagnostic methods.

Aleshka has her eyes on the Scotiabank Building in downtown Winnipeg as the home of the future facility. The space would take up one floor of the building, and she's driving to have the facility up and running by spring or early summer 2019.

"Since June, things have really taken off and we’re currently pulling everything together now. We’re getting ready to get some key stakeholders on board," Aleshka said.

KidThink executive director Analyn Einarson said the facility is going to focus on the prevention of, and early intervention into, childhood mental illness.

In its first year of operation, the facility plans to treat 200 families, before ramping up to 600 in year 2 and 1,200 in year 3. The facility will run on a non-profit, fee-for-service basis, and families looking to access services will be able to pay on a sliding scale.

"KidThink is very passionate about the prevention and early intervention of mental health challenges, and we think intervening in mental health early in life has shown to be more effective than trying to resolve these problems when the child gets older," Einarson said.

Under the direction of Aleshka and Einarson, KidThink is currently hiring its core team, developing its programming and technology platform, and seeking private and public partnerships in anticipation of the 2019 roll out.

Those involved in the project feel it's important to play an active role in breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness by helping normalize the challenges that many people face throughout their lives. To that end, securing a high-profile location at Portage Avenue and Main Street seemed symbolically important for the project.

"I think the location in itself will be a huge message for people when it comes to stigma," Aleshka said.


Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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