The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Human Resources Committee - Committee Room 1 (1669)

HANSARD

 

NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

 

COMMITTEE

 

ON

 

HUMAN RESOURCES

 

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

 

 

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES OFFICE

 

 

 

 

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

re: SchoolsPlus

&

Appointments to Agencies, Boards and Commissions

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services

 

 

 

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES

 

 

Mr. Bill Horne (Chairman)

Ms. Joyce Treen

Mr. Ben Jessome

Ms. Margaret Miller

Mr. Iain Rankin

Mr. Eddie Orrell

Ms. Karla MacFarlane

Hon. Maureen MacDonald

Hon. Denise Peterson-Rafuse

 

[Mr. Bill Horne was replaced by Mr. Brendan Maguire.]

 

 

 

In Attendance:

 

Ms. Kim Langille

Legislative Committee Clerk

 

Ms. Annette Boucher

Legislative Counsel

 

 

 

 

WITNESSES

 

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

 

Ms. Sandra McKenzie,

Deputy Minister

 

Mr. Don Glover,

Director of Student Services

 

Ms. Tara Moore,

SchoolsPlus Coordinator

 

 

 

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES

 

10:00 A.M.

 

CHAIRMAN

Mr. Bill Horne

 

 

MS. JOYCE TREEN (Chairman): Order, please. This is the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I’m the vice-chairman today because Bill Horne, our chairman, is not in attendance and this is my first time. If I make mistakes, don’t worry, Brendan will point them all out.

 

We’ll be doing ABCs after this, but right now we’re going to be listening to our presenters, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. They are going to be discussing SchoolsPlus with us. I’m personally very excited about this presentation. We’re going to have the members introduce themselves.

 

[The committee members introduced themselves.]

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: I also have to ask that you have your phones off or on vibrate, please. Now, if the witnesses would like to introduce themselves and begin.

 

[The committee witnesses introduced themselves.]

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, you may begin.

 

MS. SANDRA MCKENZIE: I’m not going to do prepared remarks, we’re going to move into the presentation. Don and Tara are going to lead us through. I would just like to say that the SchoolsPlus initiative grew out of a pilot that was run as a result of Commissioner Nunn’s recommendations back in 2008. Starting with 14 schools, we’re now in well over 150. Tara is going to give some detail on where we’re currently located and what the plans are for expansion into the future. I think much of what I would say in a presentation is captured in the presentations and I’m going to turn it over to them to start. Thank you.

 

MR. DON GLOVER: If I could just mention, Tara is the Coordinator of SchoolsPlus in the Student Services Division and provides provincial leadership to the board, so she’ll take us through it.

 

MS. TARA MOORE: Commissioner Nunn’s recommendation and many of you are probably familiar with the inquiry that took place around a youth who was spiralling out of control and had been involved with multiple service agencies. His recommendation was that there was a need for improved coordination and collaboration in the delivery of programs and services for children and youth.

 

SchoolsPlus started as a pilot through the child and youth strategy, led by the Department of Education in the Fall of 2008. We started with 14 schools in four of the school boards. Then we have since been evaluated and I’ll talk about that a little later. We’re currently in over 150 schools in all eight school boards, and with the expansion this year we will be in every county, covering more than 180 schools, and we continue to expand over the next couple of years.

 

SchoolsPlus is not a program. It often gets mentioned as a program but it’s actually an integrated service delivery model. There are programs that the SchoolsPlus facilitators and its partners will run in schools but SchoolsPlus itself is actually a model of integrated service delivery and wraparound supports, supporting the whole child and family, the belief that by working together the chances of success are improved, that schools are a familiar and accessible place, that we want the vision to be that schools become the hub of the community. Often they are already, but adding more services and enhancements makes that even better.

 

We promote the co-location of services directly in the schools. It’s not meant to replace existing programs but to collaborate with those that are going on and to expand on them.

 

The services provided respect the unique needs of the community, so the model is quite flexible, and it will look a little bit different in one school compared to another school and from board to board, but there are some key elements which I’ll speak to in a minute.

 

The wraparound supports are essentially what the SchoolsPlus model is. In some other places it might be called full-service schools, integrated schools. In Saskatchewan they had SchoolsPlus and we have been in lots of discussions with Dr. Tymchak who had started SchoolsPlus in Saskatchewan. We have some similarities, but there’s a lot of uniqueness to the SchoolsPlus model here. We identify and respond to students’ needs.

 

The advantages of a wraparound approach are improved student engagement and school success as well as family engagement, collocation and integrated service delivery, providing services via a team approach, and reducing gaps in services. So the student and the family are in the centre, and the different agencies are to work together and collaborate. SchoolsPlus is ultimately only as successful as our partnerships with the other departments and agencies.

 

The key elements - there’s a SchoolsPlus provincial coordinator, which is myself and I’m the only government employee. I work with the boards to start their SchoolsPlus sites, to develop the regional advisory committees. I sit on a number of provincial committees that link with strategies such as Health Promoting Schools, the mental health strategy, Restorative Approaches in Schools, the Hybrid Hub with the RCMP, Early Childhood and Development System Working Group, and a mental health and recreation provincial group.

 

There is a SchoolsPlus facilitator for each of the hub sites, many of them have a social work or counselling background. They are the link between the school and the community; their role is to advocate, coordinate, and expand services for students and families. They also chair the regional advisory committees and each hub site would have a regional advisory committee that would have representation from the local health authority, from the recreation department, police, probation, Community Services, family resource centres, and then depending on each community there might be Big Brothers Big Sisters or there might be the Y or there might be restorative justice agencies. In the beginning they meet on a monthly basis. Some of the sites that are more established have built that rapport and relationship, they’re meeting more on every other month. They talk about what are some of the gaps.

 

The SchoolsPlus facilitator would meet with the school staff to find out what are some of the services they feel they need in their schools, what partners they would like to be coming to the schools more often, and they can work with the advisory committee to partner to bring more programs and services in the schools. They also talk about complex cases together. Also there are community outreach workers in the SchoolsPlus hub sites and they often mentor youth - they run after-school programming, summer programming. They are also the ones that will often, if there are attendance issues - a lot of referrals to SchoolsPlus are chronic absenteeism or attendance and sometimes they will be knocking on doors. They’ll work with the family to find out what is the underlying reason why, what’s the barrier to coming to school?

 

As part of the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, we now have 23 mental health clinicians as part of the SchoolsPlus hub sites; they’re part of the SchoolsPlus inter-agency team. They may be employees of the IWK or the provincial health authority, but they’re 100 per cent collocated in the schools, so they’re part of the school even though they’re not an employee of the school board.

 

We have SchoolsPlus community rooms in each SchoolsPlus hub site, and it’s a space that families, parents and students, and the community service providers can use. We have a video on our Web site, it shows a few of the different community rooms. They have a couch, a place for coffee and tea, they can run programs there, and parents can drop by and ask for support. I know in Halifax, in the elementary schools, they often have parents that drop by and ask for help with preparing their résumé for an interview. Also we run parenting programs called Incredible Years, which is a collaboration with the IWK.

 

Some of the sites also have SchoolsPlus Youth Advisory Committees and they are a great resource to find out what sort of program they’d like SchoolsPlus to run so they would do a survey with the youth and say, we don’t want to duplicate anything so we’re not out there to reinvent a sports team or a band or any of the already well-organized programs.

 

Many students who are not engaged with school are also not involved in a lot of organized extracurricular activities, so we try to find out what sort of things they would be interested in. I’ll talk about a few of those a little later.

 

Another key component is the inter-agency consent form that was developed as a way that we could share information on complex cases. That was signed off by the Deputy Ministers of Health and Wellness, Justice, Community Services, Education and Early Childhood Development, the superintendents of the school boards and the CEOs of the district health authorities. That allows for better ease of communication so if there’s a complex case and the youth is involved with, say, probation and Community Services, they wouldn’t have to go back to the mental health, go to the clinic and go to the probation and sign all those individual consent forms for us to have a case conference about it, we can have it right away. That was key to addressing Nunn about the barrier being information sharing. It has been well accepted by the different agencies.

 

Who is served by SchoolsPlus? I wish I had a little elevator speech but I don’t. Basically everyone can be served or supported by SchoolsPlus because we have things that are school-wide, such as promoting restorative approaches in schools and trauma-informed practice. The SchoolsPlus after-school programs are open to anyone.

 

We do keep in mind that we want the programs that we are involved with to be making sure that we’re getting the youth who aren’t typically coming out to things. Those who would be on the SchoolsPlus caseload and receiving direct service - so not school-wide or a program - are those who have been involved with multiple agencies or need to be linked up to multiple services and agencies; the usual school supports have already been tried. So we don’t have an age range - it could be Primary to Grade 12 - and we’ve worked with youth who aren’t currently in school or sometimes we’ll be working with a student and we find out that they have a sibling who hasn’t started school yet so we can help them with our partnerships with the Family Resource Centre get linked.

 

SchoolsPlus is voluntary so the student and family have to be willing to be involved with SchoolsPlus. We find that when the majority of folks are approached, they want extra support because I think we’re kind of a liaison between the school and the community and we’re not a mandated service; generally people are looking for something. They might not necessarily always be looking for exactly what the referral was about but sometimes we get to that after the relationship is built. They have to be within the SchoolsPlus service area and willing to sign the consent. Referrals can be made by the student or the family themselves, the school program planning team and service providers.

 

In the beginning when SchoolsPlus comes to a new area, most of the referrals are coming from the school program planning team. After SchoolsPlus has been around for a year or so and community and parents know about it, then we get a lot more self-referrals.

 

For complex service plans we have for - you might be involved with SchoolsPlus and just need help navigating the system or they can be an advocate and attend a meeting with someone to go to income assistance or to sit in on a school meeting or other meetings. They also may want to have that meeting where all the different service providers come together and we call that a comprehensive service plan meeting.

 

A lot of the referrals we receive are for school refusal or we do a lot of work around transitioning students into school from elementary to junior high and to getting ready for graduation and what it’s going to look like when you leave school.

 

Some of the programs and resources - I feel like it’s a little bit like show and tell but I have different posters of different programs that the sites have run throughout the province. Some examples are homework clubs. We have The Art Of . . ., which Amherst started but many of the other SchoolsPlus sites have now taken over the same idea, that once a week they would have a SchoolsPlus drop-in group and they called it The Art Of. . . They asked the youth what sort of things would you like the theme to be this month. Every month they have a different theme, based on the input from the youth. They have run things like art of yoga, art of web design, art of photography, art of cooking. Art of cooking is always the most popular.

 

The community outreach worker organizes that and supervises the after-school program but they get a volunteer from the community who has expertise in whatever that month is, to help co-facilitate it with them. Because the Art Of . . . has gotten so popular in Amherst that it was more than really two people could oversee, often, and they have been running for a number of years, they’ve asked youth - some of the older youth - if they want to stay involved they are now involved as a leader. Then that adds to that they can put it on their résumé that they’ve helped out at the after-school program. They’ve also started doing some volunteer group things. They worked at the SPCA and the food bank and different things like that. We have family fun days that would happen at the school.

 

Some of them have received community health board grants for SchoolsPlus emergency fund. We were finding there were some youth who were still in need of things, that they weren’t falling under the mandate of any one organization. It might have been needing new sneakers in order to be able to play on the basketball team or it might have been a dental thing and things like that. We try to make sure there isn’t someone in the community that can offer the service first because we would deplete our funds but we do have a small emergency fund for things that come to our attention and we can do it confidentially.

 

Some of the youth and SchoolsPlus have started like a prom dress exchange program, some food bank things. There’s also mentoring and one-on-one. In some of the rural areas there has been a grandparent support group that started because they were actually looking after their grandchildren because the parents were out West working and they wanted different guest speakers to be brought in about legal issues and custody and what about the new curriculum and homework because it has been a long time since they were in school.

 

All our programs are free and open to anyone. Last summer they collaborated with a camp and offered a camp for parents who have children with autism, so they could have a break. They work with them once a month. Different programs also that we have been involved with that we work with in collaboration are things like Friends For Life, the Incredible Years parenting program, Roots of Empathy. Many of the sites have Loom and Lego clubs that are really popular at lunchtime. We get donations for Lego - Lego, it’s unbelievable how expensive it is and how much you need to run some of these, so if anyone has a connection with Lego, we’re always taking donations.

 

Options 2 Anger, there have been career fairs and if you want to see more of the things, I’ve put the website up there, but you can go backward on the calendar - it’s me who updates the website so I’m often behind and not everything that we run in SchoolsPlus is there, but there’s a nice sampling from the different boards of different things.

 

I mentioned we had been involved in a three-year external evaluation and it was by Collective Wisdom Solutions, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation. They found that SchoolsPlus had a positive impact overall and on the school climate, it improved communication between service providers, schools, students, and families, and there was more timely and effective services particularly for students and families with the highest need. There was a demonstrated capacity of SchoolsPlus to reach out to disengaged families and students.

 

The SchoolsPlus community rooms were being used by students and families as well as service providers. SchoolsPlus staff helped students and families navigate through the systems and connect services, they are identifying gaps and have increased the range of programming available at the SchoolsPlus sites. The community partners and the regional advisory committee members were sharing information, collaborating on projects together, and thinking as a collaborative community.

 

The schools were becoming a resource for the community that facilitated inter-professional training opportunities from different service providers and different disciplines getting together. Some of the training that we’ve offered that has been involved with multiple agencies and multiple departments has been Options 2 Anger, Friends for Life, VOICES, the Incredible Years, the Go-To with Dr. Stan Kutcher, Restorative Approaches in Schools, and we’ve also offered 13 inter-agency privacy workshops to promote the SchoolsPlus consent form and the information-sharing guidelines.

 

The evaluation found that both school staff and program providers pointed out the vital role of the facilitator and the community outreach worker in providing the link between schools and programs and services. They are in close touch with families and schools which enabled needs to be identified earlier and preventive measures taken. They have played a neutral role. They will collaborate with the other school personnel, they also will co-facilitate programs with service providers. They have helped with transportation so ideally we’d like the services to be right at the school, but when that’s not available, then the community outreach worker and the facilitator have helped with getting to appointments. Some have seen an increase in client attendance because of that.

 

The SchoolsPlus resulted in an increased accessibility for students and their families to services, increased collaboration and coordination of services, increased supports and resources in the school, and enhanced awareness and knowledge of mental health disorders in schools and helping to reduce the stigma. We’re also in the midst of an evaluation of the school mental health clinicians and our hope is that the de-stigmatization of mental health by having mental health professionals in the schools full-time helps to break down the idea that you have to go to a clinic or that there’s less stigma around being identified that you might have had a mental illness at some point in your life.

 

Some of the current challenges have been systemic obstacles limit progress. What the evaluation found out in the beginning is it was the information sharing, but that has been one of the things that systemically, by having the buy-in of the deputy ministers and superintendents, that is now no longer an issue. That didn’t happen overnight, that took quite a few years to get that.

 

Communication and year-round access to the schools, sometimes it’s new for schools to be open in the summer hours and to have some staff working over the summer. There have been negotiations with the custodial staff because of where do you clean. It’s their time to clean the school and get it looking perfect.

 

Gaps in services, there’s a lot of referrals to SchoolsPlus for 16- to 19-year-olds who may have housing issues or family issues so that takes up a lot of our time of the older population, we’re wanting to make sure they are not dropping out of school or leaving school and staying connected to school.

 

Transportation, especially in the rural areas, that’s since SchoolsPlus started when we had Regional Advisory Committees, that was often the number one thing that came up at the Regional Advisory Committees, the lack of public accessible transportation to get to things. That can affect whether or not they get to stay for after school programming and things like that. Also recruiting staff for the rural areas, in particular if one of our school boards is French and for the recruitment of the mental health clinicians we’ve had some difficulty recruiting a French-speaking mental health clinician for the rural areas.

 

The next steps, the plan to have a formal direct link to the social policy deputy forum. The deputy minister may want to speak further to that later. Building more accountability for horizontal success in SchoolsPlus, having it in every department, some accountability and mention to that. SchoolsPlus not seen as just a Department of Education and Early Childhood Development initiative because it really is only as successful as our partnerships with all the other agencies. To be truly integrated we need to be involved quite a bit with the other departments.

 

Ongoing support for the Regional Advisory Committees, thinking about possibly getting together with the four departments and school board superintendents and the health authority to talk about interagency collaboration and what are things we could do to build on that, exploring the possibility of legislative framework for consent for information sharing across governments. There has been a number of organizations that are looking at the SchoolsPlus consent form and wondering how they could use it more broadly than just if you are involved with SchoolsPlus and for us to make sure that we incorporate space for interagency collaboration in new school construction. That’s ongoing conversations when new schools are announced, that we make sure there is the space there for SchoolsPlus and all the community partners to be able to use it.

 

In the beginning where the four pilots were, schools didn’t know SchoolsPlus was coming and they just found out that you are SchoolsPlus. Some of them had space for all that community to use and access and others didn’t. They were pretty short of space, so that was a challenge in the beginning. Wanting to continue to align strategies, so SchoolsPlus has been mentioned and referred to, either recommended for further expansion or discussed as to how they want to align more with SchoolsPlus in different government strategies.

 

MS. MACKENZIE: Okay, just to wrap up, I’d like to thank Tara for working quietly and amazingly with the regional teams to pull together what is actually an awesome network of supports for children and families across the province. This has actually been a relay effort by all the parties, actually, sitting at this table. It has resulted from a growth from 2008 to now of being in 180 schools by the end of this year and in every school hopefully by 2017-18. We’re happy to take questions and the three of us will make an effort at answering them.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: I’m going to open the floor for questions. Ms. Miller.

 

MS. MARGARET MILLER: I am so impressed. Thank you so much for your presentation and the work you’ve done. As you said, it has been a collaborative effort with all governments. I really want to commend the other Parties, as well, for the work they have done on this. It’s just amazing that this has carried through. I’m so excited at the thought of this even being in my area. I don’t think there are any in Hants East yet, are there?

 

MS. MOORE: We’re in Hants West, Windsor, and all its feeder schools. I’m trying to remember - it’s not this year’s expansion, but I believe it’s the next year’s expansion.

 

MS. MILLER: Can you also tell me about the Aboriginal communities. They have their own schools in a lot of cases, is this going to be integrated into those schools as well?

 

MR. GLOVER: We work very closely with MK; we’ve had several presentations to MK on SchoolsPlus. We’re actually providing service at the moment, even though we don’t have SchoolsPlus in MK so there’s a mental health clinician who visits two of the schools, primarily because they’re in close proximity to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

 

MS. MOORE: Membertou transitions into Sherwood Park Education Centre. So the SchoolsPlus facilitator works around transitioning and they do some partnerships a bit with the MK school there, and the Mi’kmaq physical activity coordinator runs a drama group at the school and things like that.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: I’m just going to interrupt for one minute. For the people who are listening on our mikes, I have to identify you before you speak. I’m a newbie, too, so I’m kind of like uh-oh. Ms. Miller, do you have another question?

 

MS. MILLER: I do have one small one, one very short one, hopefully, that is addressing one of the things that I pinpointed right away in rural communities, rural schools. I know it’s usually the kids who actually do more anyway who would have access to after-school programs, and the children who probably really need the help aren’t going to be able to be there. Are you looking at some way of addressing this so that the uptake for rural schools can be used more in the rural areas?

 

MS. MOORE: We have some good examples in rural areas of the use in the summer. Big Brothers Big Sisters have two programs that they put on in the schools; one called Go Girls! and the other one Game On!. What they’re doing is if they find out a parent can’t bring them to the school, then the community outreach worker can help with that, or they can look at - we have a collaboration with the African Nova Scotia division around a summer program called Quest for Knowledge in Digby. We wanted to expand it to Weymouth but there weren’t enough students in Weymouth to run it.

 

There is a local Clare shuttle, I believe, and we worked with them to give us a really good rate. They pick up the students and bring them to the Digby Regional High School.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: We’re also looking at the issue of transportation in rural communities in a larger way across departments. TIR is providing some leadership and there’s a number of departments that are having that conversation, as well, because it’s not just schools that would need the provision of those services, it’s broader, so that’s also being discussed.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacFarlane.

 

MS. KARLA MACFARLANE: I’d like to thank the three of you for joining us this morning; it’s nice to meet you. My question is for Ms. Moore. As we know, this budget that has been passed, there has been quite a decrease in the overall investment in mental health. However, I am happy to see that $1.1 million has been given to invest in the school system.

 

You mentioned that there are 23 employees and they’re from the IWK.

 

MS. MOORE: Some are the IWK and the others are part of the health authority, so they’re across the province, so the SchoolsPlus sites.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: Right, I have two questions here. I would like to know if there will be an increase in employees with this $1.2 million that’s being invested? Where is that money going? Will it create jobs? If you can give me somewhat of a number of people who are working in the rural areas in mental health departments?

 

MS. MOORE: I’ll answer the second part and then turn it over to the deputy for the first part. Across the province, I would have to look at a sheet, but off the top of my head I believe there are four out of the IWK, so here in the central area. There are three in the Valley area, four in Cape Breton - these are approximates, so they might not add up exactly to 23 - in the GASHA, Guysborough-Antigonish-Strait area, three and a half, Pictou one, Cumberland one, Colchester one, where have I left out, the Tri-County area is two or three. They align with the SchoolsPlus hub sites if that makes it easier, so where there is a SchoolsPlus hub site there’s at least one mental health clinician, some may have more than that. The IWK would have four.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacKenzie.

 

MS. MACKENZIE: I just wanted to clarify the first part of the question that you asked. Could you just say it one more time?

 

MS. MACFARLANE: We know there’s $1.1 million being invested into the school system for mental health. I would like to know how that is affecting your program, are you getting funds to increase employees to represent the rural areas more? In my opinion and what I’m hearing is that there’s a lack of service in the school system for mental health assistance. I’m wondering with this $1.1 million being invested, where is it going and just a breakdown of that?

 

MS. MACKENZIE: We can provide you the breakdown of where the additional money went. In total there is $2.6 million being spent on mental health clinicians and the additional money this year was a further expansion and we can provide a breakdown to you of where that money was spent and who has been hired. There are a couple of vacancies where we’re having a little bit of difficulty recruiting and I think Tara identified that we’re having a little bit of a difficulty getting a French-language mental health clinician to serve rural Nova Scotia, that is something that we’re putting some extra effort on. There will be areas not currently served by mental health clinicians and as we expand SchoolsPlus that will be part of that expansion.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: Just one small question with regard to mental health. You made a comment, Ms. Moore, there will be an evaluation of the mental health aspect so I’m just wondering what that will entail and how will you engage the outcome of that?

 

MS. MOORE: That is being led by the Department of Health & Wellness with their mental health strategy, but it’s a partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and they are keeping data on each of the school mental health clinicians that get sent into them on a monthly basis. Also, after service delivery with the student or family, they offer a survey online, a way to offer feedback. The school mental health clinicians are going to be interviewed. There is also an online survey for all of the principals of the schools that have the mental health clinicians and there are some focus groups so there’s going to be a focus group with the SchoolsPlus facilitator and the school board supervisor to find out how they feel if it is truly working well and then they’ll have a report probably in September.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Maguire.

 

MR. BRENDAN MAGUIRE: Thank you for coming today. You mentioned schools being the hub of the community. When I was younger, the schools used to be open several nights a week. They were open for sports activities and different things like that. It actually was very positive because it got children out and active and we got to know some of the kids from different parts of the community that we may not have had an opportunity to get to know.

 

Is this something that SchoolsPlus is doing right now? Also, one of the issues I hear when I talk to people in our community is around insurance and wages and these are reasons why these schools can’t be open now. I guess what I’d like to know is, what changed from then to now and is this something that SchoolsPlus is actively looking at doing?

 

MS. MOORE: We have some different examples around the province of using the school after hours. In Digby they have a partnership with the recreation department. SchoolsPlus has Friday night open gym and Saturday open gym. On Saturdays I believe the morning is for the younger years so parents and younger children can come and play games and do things and later in the day is for the older youth. I mentioned The Art Of. . .; that’s running at different places. There’s the Family Fun Nights or Family Fun Days that happen at some of the sites.

 

Would it be every single day of the week that SchoolsPlus is running something? No, because we don’t have the staff or resources. We’d love it if the different partner agencies wanted to engage further and in some communities that seems to happen more than in others. I think sometimes that’s partly because what are the resources in the community and you’d be surprised that places that have more resources are a little usually less going to use the school because they’re already running. We never want to be competing for the same resources or the same youth or the same programs.

 

MR. MAGUIRE: My understanding is that in order for these programs to take place that we actually have to have a community organization that is willing to step up and take responsibility. Does SchoolsPlus help with that?

 

MS. MOORE: Yes.

 

MR. MAGUIRE: So if there’s an organization within the Spryfield area that would like to see one of the schools open to the children, are they still responsible for the insurance, the liability and for the wages of the staff who may, or the school - that’s what I’m trying to get at, does SchoolsPlus help with that? I don’t think I fully understand when it comes to . . .

 

MS. MOORE: It depends on which school board because they each have different policies. So yes, they would help with that. The Halifax board I think has more challenges because they get asked but there’s so many more resources and so many more asks that that gets quite - they’ve got a different procedure than some of the other places do. I believe they have an agreement with the municipality so that comes into play and you’d have to speak with the board about their ins and outs about that.

 

In the other boards, yes, it’s not as complicated because it’s really a discussion with the SchoolsPlus facilitator, who will talk to the principal and they work it out. There does still have to be the school insurance but if a school employee is part of the program, that’s covered through the school insurance program. So if SchoolsPlus is involved, we’re covered under the liability. If it’s an organization that comes and there’s no school staff including a SchoolsPlus person, then they would have to make sure they have their own insurance liability.

 

MR. MAGUIRE: You realize you are going to get a call from me now. (Laughter) Are you guys looking to expand your programs? One of the things I hear is around skilled trades in particular, J.L. Ilsley has the skilled trades centre in there. The community has asked in the past if it can be opened up for people to come in and develop some kind of skills, maybe have a Red Seal person come in at night and teach them some employable skills. Is that something that would fall under SchoolsPlus? I think for maybe some people who are living on the margins, people who could maybe use some help, this would be a great thing if we offered free skilled education.

 

MS. MACKENZIE: It’s sort of a broader suite of things that we have to take a look at. The same opportunity has been identified when we open up Brilliant Labs, as well in terms of those maker spaces could be good great supports particularly in rural areas. We have to look at each of the programs or each of the requests as they arise - how close are they in terms of proximity to a community college, those types of things. So as we take a look at the spaces, the skills trade centres, Brilliant Labs, and what have you - that will be part of an overall community use of schools policy that we’re taking a look at as part of the Action Plan for Education.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. EDDIE ORRELL: I have a few quick questions that I don’t think will take a lot of big, long answers, but the schools that don’t have the SchoolsPlus system now, can the students who go to the schools that don’t have that access to SchoolsPlus - and you talk about a service area - how big is the service area compared to people outside being able to use that who don’t have that program in their area?

 

MS. MOORE: To be on the direct individual caseload they have to be either registered in that school or that would be their school catchment area, just because they are pretty much at capacity. Many of them have caseloads of 20 or 25, so that’s a lot to manage of complex cases. If we opened it up to schools that don’t have SchoolsPlus, they wouldn’t be able to do the work that they’re doing.

 

For an after-school program, I think there’s more flexibility with that, but ultimately that comes down to the decision of the school board. Some school boards may say no they couldn’t, due to liability, but I’m aware of others that are. I can’t fully answer that because I think it’s more of a school board policy.

 

MR. GLOVER: There are other things happening as well. For example, whilst we’re expanding SchoolsPlus, we’ve expanded guidance counsellors, and we are working with Dr. Kutcher on Go-To training, making it available to schools that aren’t part of SchoolsPlus. We’re trying to make other things happen at the same time, it’s not a wait until you get SchoolsPlus.

 

MR. ORRELL: You said that each SchoolsPlus program provides programming that’s unique to the area, the needs are unique to that situation. Who decides what services are unique and necessary, and is there input from the community as well as the school system and maybe the service providers that live in those areas? So who decides what services are offered and how unique they are?

 

MS. MOORE: A lot of that’s decided at the regional advisory committees that have the different community workers on them. There would be folks from recreation, community services, justice, probation, and police. Often the SchoolsPlus facilitator gets invited to a school advisory committee or a home and school, and they take suggestions from them. When they start a SchoolsPlus site, one of the first things they do is meet with the principal and often a guidance counsellor and say, what are the services that are currently running and what programs are currently running? They have a chart that’s all colour coded around health, community services, education - all the different categories and then they say are there any gaps or are there things that you’d like to see, and then they would work with the different partners to see if they could bring them.

 

Once they have more involvement with the parents and students they get feedback from the students and parents. In Halifax, I know they do a survey with the parents that have been on their caseload for the year to ask them what sort of things they would like. So there are lots of different ways to get inputs about what the programs are running.

 

MR. ORRELL: You talk about facilitators being involved. How many facilitators are there across the province now and as the new schools are added to the program - you said there could be up to 30 more between now and 2016, I believe - will more facilitators be added as well and are these guys paid positions? Will there be new positions in the school system or is it a duty that someone else would take on?

 

MR. GLOVER: Our long-term plan is for 28 hub sites in the province, and as the deputy mentioned, we hope to have those 28 hub sites in place in 2016-17. We have a catch-up year in 2017-18, where we will identify gaps that need additional service, despite the fact that we have the hub sites in place.

 

The boards have some flexibility. One of our boards, for example, for full implementation would have three SchoolsPlus hub sites within the board. They opted to not have three facilitators, but one facilitator because they could manage the geography and the school’s configuration with one facilitator and put the extra funding in community outreach workers for more direct service to students.

 

MR. ORRELL: So how many facilitators are there now?

 

MR. GLOVER: Now we have - I’m taking a guess, Tara - 20?

 

MS. MOORE: Twenty-one and approximately 32 community outreach workers. So each hub site would have a facilitator and a community outreach worker but sometimes they might have more community outreach workers.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: We’ll provide that breakdown.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Ms. MacDonald.

 

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much. It has been a while since I read the Nunn Inquiry report but I remember very clearly the event that led to that report, I think many of us do.

 

The work that has been done is great and I really congratulate the team that has been working on this. I recognize that it has been a big piece of work and there’s probably still lots more to do.

 

One of the things I’m wondering is what are the number of students who are covered now and how many students are not covered by a SchoolsPlus program?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: We would need to go back and look at the catchment areas by the enrolment we have in the areas right now, so we will provide that number. We can probably give you a ballpark . . .

 

MS. MACDONALD: A ballpark would be great at this stage.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. Moore.

 

MS. MOORE: Open cases on the direct SchoolsPlus caseloads, so those complex cases, average around 550 a month. So someone might stay on an individual direct caseload for over a year or they may only be on their caseload for a month, depending on what sort of things they are. So it might be ongoing mentoring and the chronic absenteeism and all the different supports that are going on might be long term. When I get the monthly reports, it averages around 550 across the province.

 

For programs, that doesn’t include after-school programs or whole school things, those are the individual caseloads. I wouldn’t know what schools that don’t have SchoolsPlus, what the number would be.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: We would go back, take a look at the number of schools we have, find out the number of kids that are served school-wide and send that number. Then Tara has just reported on each of the SchoolsPlus also deal with complex cases, that’s around 500 or 550 a month. Obviously the number of students we serve with SchoolsPlus in the broadest form is much larger and we’ll send that number in.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I mean that information on the number of complex cases is useful and interesting. I’m trying to get a very high level understanding of the school population and what proportion is covered now by SchoolsPlus and what proportion is yet to have this integrated approach. That’s the first thing.

 

The number of schools that are covered - 150, expanding to 180 - how many schools aren’t covered yet, aren’t involved in the SchoolsPlus program in the province?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: There are 426 schools in the province and we’re currently covering 180. Our intention is to be covering the full 426 in the next two years.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Okay, so we’re not quite half way there yet.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: Well in terms of schools but I can’t say that would be numbers because we’ve picked up some large families of schools so that’s the number I have to get back to you with.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Just for clarity, around the $2.6 million in total that you made reference to, is that the budget for just the mental health component of SchoolsPlus? What does the entire budget for SchoolsPlus right now as it currently stands?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: The $2.6 million is purely for mental health clinicians. Tara can tell the budget for SchoolsPlus that we manage through the department and then there would be leveraged funds brought in by the other partners to the table. That may be something we have to get back to you on. I’m going to pass it over to Tara now.

 

MS. MOORE: For the exact amount, I’d have to get back to you. Per hub site it’s $125,000, so that covers the salary of the facilitator and the community outreach worker. The initial four pilots that came from the child and youth strategy money and that sort of thing had some extra funding. But since we’ve expanded each year the funding has been $125,000 per hub site.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I’m trying to get an understanding of how much of the total cost the mental health component actually is. If the SchoolsPlus program is a $7 million program, then $2.6 million is the mental health component. If you can’t provide that to me now I would like to know what proportion of the entire cost is the mental health cost. Then, a further question I have - you indicated that $2.6 million is the mental health cost, the $1.1 million in this year’s budget. Is that going to be in addition to the $2.6 million or is that included in the $2.6 million?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: The additional $4 million for SchoolsPlus is the $2.6 million for mental health clinicians, so it’s in excess of 50 per cent for mental health. Of course, that will grow and in the future the commitment would be that mental health clinicians would also be part of the expansion.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Just to summarize, SchoolsPlus is a $4 million program . . .

 

MS. MOORE: Just under - $3.7 million is my guess.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Just under $4 million, $3.7 million and additionally there is $2.6 million for mental health services and of that $2.6 million, $1.1 million is new program money in this year’s budget. Is that accurate?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: I’ll go back to clarify. I thought it was $1.3 million, but I’ll go back.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Okay, $1.3 million this year.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Maguire.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I have a few more questions. I would like us to go to the slides in our slide presentation on Current Challenges, please. I’m always struck at the language of bureaucracy - what does “Systemic obstacles limit progress” mean? Can we have a little more detail? What are the systemic obstacles that are limiting progress?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: This would have been out of the evaluation and this would have come from the people who were interviewed. I doubt very much that they referred to them as systemic obstacles limiting progress, that’s a roll-up of the statement. But what that would look like is that just like every other province in Canada and just like the experience of the federal government, our departments are constructed - they’re vertical and they report to ministers and have their own business planning and budgeting process. It has been a challenge consistently over a number of years to get a number of those departments moving in tandem, at the same time.

 

Don made an excellent point earlier. One of the successes that really has supported the growth of SchoolsPlus is, it started at the bottom and not at the top. In order to get departments moving from the top together in the right configuration, it takes a lot more effort than it did to actually get people on the ground starting to work together and starting to identify where there were issues. A perfect example from systemic obstacles would have been information sharing, not being able to share between departments for concerns about privacy. That was overcome, I believe that we’re actually a model for Canada in terms of our information-sharing protocol that allows the departments to share information. It was one of the things that Nunn identified as to that’s how things fall through the cracks.

 

This ground network has been identifying for us where we need to make policy changes between departments to address what some of those systemic obstacles might be, like that information sharing.

 

What we’ve done now is connect SchoolsPlus to the social policy deputy’s committee which is made up of Justice, Health and Wellness, Community Services, Education and Early Childhood Development, and now Seniors. That table, which I chair, is the place where we address the policy issues that are being identified by the on-the-ground teams. That’s what that is identifying, that’s how we’re addressing it.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacDonald, if you have any more questions, I’m going to put you on the speakers list because there are a few more people who need - I’ll put you back on. Mr. Maguire, please.

 

MR. MAGUIRE: I’ll be quick. It’s great to see departments working together on such an important issue and realizing that it takes more than just one department to solve an issue.

 

I have two questions and I’ll make them brief. Do you see any type of impact on SchoolsPlus in regard to the amalgamation of the health boards, in particular shared resources? Just for my own knowledge, what kind of impact are we having on the ground in regard to graduations and children and young adults going on to have better life-coping skills?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: I’m going to take a high-level crack and then I think Tara can provide more detail. The amalgamation of the health board has allowed resources to be moved around as required, so that has been a positive. Tara can speak to that.

 

In addition, we’re taking a look at the evaluation, at how kids felt about school, their affinity with school and that type of thing, which was very positive. In some cases as much as 50 per cent growth in terms of kids saying that they saw school as a source of support. I can turn that over to Tara.

 

We have a number of things that we’re working on in the Action Plan for Education that’s heading towards helping more children graduate successfully and with the career readiness and with the academic readiness they need to move on, so SchoolsPlus would be one of those supports.

 

MS. MOORE: To your first question around the amalgamation, tomorrow we are in Mulgrave - myself and a staff person from the Department of Health and Wellness - and we’ll be meeting with all the SchoolsPlus facilitators and the school mental health clinicians and their supervisors from health and school boards. That will be one of our discussions about the amalgamation, how is it looking. We’re assuming that there will be more consistencies now that it will be the IWK and the provincial health authority.

 

Because it’s still relatively new, having the school mental health clinicians in schools - when there were district health authorities, some of them were rolling it out and it looked a little different to each place, which is okay sometimes, but with some things it would be good to have a little bit more consistency. So I’m positive that I think the amalgamation will help with consistency and best practice and things.

 

Around coping skills, a lot of the programs that I sent the posters around would deal with life skills and coping skills. We also work with Dr. John LeBlanc around social and emotional learning and the evidence-based programming there. Schools receive a grant for that that is in addition to SchoolsPlus. There’s also different programs like VOICES, which is self-empowerment for girls. They have the Options 2 Anger which is about regulations, zones of regulation, and Friends for Life is around anxiety.

 

We have different places where they do career fairs. In some of the SchoolsPlus sites, YouthWorx is right in the SchoolsPlus community room. They’re there once or twice a week and students can drop in and work on resumés or interview skills or take some workshops so they’re better able to be prepared for the workforce.

 

I think also the Restorative Approaches in Schools is a really great example of how students, staff and community learn to talk about conflict resolution and get together and those are going to be helpful when they leave school as well and get out in the community. In the South Shore they recently had youth who wanted to receive the training so a lot of the work has been with school staff on restorative approaches. But the youth were wanting to be peer leaders and learn how to do peer training for restorative approaches so they recently did that in April on the South Shore.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Glover.

 

MR. GLOVER: If you look at the three-year evaluation of SchoolsPlus, it was an external evaluation of SchoolsPlus and it wasn’t linking it to all of the other things that are happening. So if we were to look at SchoolsPlus now we would look at it in the context of a continuum, we’d look at linking it to the curriculum and the pathways that exist, the partnerships that have been formed with other government departments, with service providers in the community, with how we support students with exceptionalities and special needs, how we accommodate diversity. We were stressed about having such an extensive review of SchoolsPlus at the early stages of it, it was very helpful in developing it, but if we were to move forward now we’d look at it in the context of how it is part of a bigger array of services.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacFarlane.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: In 2013, Dr. Bennett did a review and came back with around 10 recommendations. I’m just wondering if there’s an update on whether or not you have implemented any of his recommendations, what the costs of those implementations would have been and as well, are there further recommendations that you will be in the future implementing from his review?

 

MR. GLOVER: Yes, he did that review in 2013 and it was just at the time when the Department of Health and Wellness was releasing its Mental Health and Addictions Strategy called Together We Can, so a classic example of advancing the recommendations was our collaboration horizontally with other government departments in the infusion of school mental health clinicians in SchoolsPlus sites. 

 

We also are looking at things like he talked about information sharing and we’ve advanced the information sharing protocol and the common consent form which is being used now by SchoolsPlus, but it’s being looked at by other government departments and actually, other jurisdictions in the country as well. He talked about year-round access and we certainly have enhanced year-round access in the province. We’ve still got issues to overcome, but we are addressing them. I think the major themes of his recommendations were spoken to: greater access, infusion of mental health services.

 

MS. MACFARLANE: Just to follow up with that, I believe he recommended as well the outcome of the Pathways Spryfield program. Do you know if any other schools in the province had adopted that program as well?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: We have a number of programs, we have a number of schools in the province that have different versions of homework clubs and other types of support. Pathways is unique to the Spryfield area but just today I had the conversation where we need to start tracking the Pathways-like programming that we have in other schools. Some of it would come from SchoolsPlus, others there are partnerships that have evolved in communities led by other community partners.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Jessome.

 

MR. BEN JESSOME: I’d like to check back to the Next Steps slide of the PowerPoint. I would ask one of our guests to first quickly - and I may have missed it - what does RAC stand for, support SchoolsPlus RAC?

 

MS. MOORE: SchoolsPlus Regional Advisory Committee.

 

MR. JESSOME: Awesome. Would one of you be able to add some context to No. 5, what constraints you’re facing with respect to consent and kind of what the direction is moving forward?

 

MR. GLOVER: We’ve developed an information sharing and consent protocol that has been signed off by the deputies of the four departments and the superintendents of the school boards. We are now wondering if we should look at that as a model that should be framed in legislation, so we started that conversation. It appears that others outside of SchoolsPlus are looking at it as a common consent form so we are in the early stages of exploring whether or not it should be legislation. Some jurisdictions do have information sharing protocols and consent in legislation.

 

MR. JESSOME: Thank you. Finally I’ll jump back to the top there, “Formal, direct link to Social Policy Deputy Forum”. Can you elaborate a little bit on that, please?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: The Social Policy Deputy Forum is made up of Education and Early Childhood Development, Justice, Community Services, the Department of Health and Wellness, and Seniors. It is a policy forum for us to take a look at collaboration, particularly in areas where we need to make movement forward as a group. I would say it’s a horizontal forum but doesn’t mean we are all laying down. It’s a place where we’re trying to move forward horizontal work. SchoolsPlus would fit within that but also taking a look at some of the other programming that we have that would run across departments as well.

 

For instance, the autism, our strategies to deal with autism and a number of others as well. I chair that committee. It is made up of deputy ministers. There is a senior officials committee that reports into it. It will be tied to the SchoolsPlus regional committees through Tara and her team.

 

MR. JESSOME: Last question, I’ve heard the word horizontal many times throughout this presentation and I’m curious what your opinion is on, I guess, the barriers between interdepartmental collaboration on some of these things. Is it a policy issue? Is it a management issue? What is it?

 

MS. MCKENZIE: Horizontal policy has been looked at I know for at least 15 years. I’ve been in government I feel like for 400 years. It has been something that has evolved. The last 15 or 20 years we have been seriously looking at horizontal policy. It has been studied at the federal level, it has been studied in provinces and it has certainly been studied in Nova Scotia.

 

We’ve looked at can you solve it through a structure? Do you need a horizontal structure that would span departments, that would have its own budget and business planning? Do you solve it by policy?

 

Here’s my observation: the most difficult structures can work with good relationships and the best-thought-out structures won’t work without good relationships. So this is horizontal policy requires good relationships, a clear understanding of the goals and direction you are heading in, a limited number of priorities so that you are able to make significant movement. I think that’s where we’ve been able to make clear movement with the Schools Plus because the ground is telling the policy what needs to happen and the policy group is responding.

 

MR. JESSOME: Okay, thank you.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. ORRELL: In your presentation one of the things we talked about concerned gaps in the system. One of the gaps was between ages 16 and 19 being able to obtain services, keeping the services. In the Spring session they just introduced a bill through Community Services to change the age and the definition of a child from 15 to 19. Will that change in policy help with the SchoolsPlus program because it will allow the 16 or 19-year-olds to access more Community Services resources? If it is, have you guys had any impact on that legislation? We know now that the legislation didn’t pass because is it going to be consulted over the summer and will you guys be doing some consultation with the Department of Community Services to make sure that legislation is as strong as it can be to protect those vulnerable citizens in our community?

 

MR. GLOVER: The answer to it is yes, we have consulted closely with Community Services. We have a committee known as the Special Education Programs and Services Committee, or SEPS - we speak in acronyms so much - and Community Services is on that committee. We continually raise the issue of the challenges facing the population between the ages of 16 and 19, it’s certainly a focus of the work that SchoolsPlus is doing. On the regional advisory committees, RACs, we have Community Services present. So they are listening and engaged in conversations with us at many levels.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: The issue with 16- to 19-year-olds is bigger than Community Services and clearly Community Services making changes to that legislation would be positive, I believe, and it’s one that I think they recognize will make a big difference. I believe it is voluntary, the engagement of 16- to 19-year-olds, but we have challenges with 16- to 19-year-olds in the school system. The justice system has challenges with 16- to 19-year-olds, the health system does as well, and families do. It’s a time when kids can make decisions that can shape the rest of their lives, really. From a legislative perspective, being able to do what’s required for 16- to 19-year-olds is very important; it’s also making sure that we have programs that are responsive to them.

 

One of the things that we’ll be looking at in the public education system is that right now the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning is able to serve 19-year-olds. Some children might be better served in the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning because of their situation, and the public school system has agreed that that might be a better way. There are lots of conversations going on as to how we can serve that age group better, and that’s a perfect example of where we would look at a horizontal policy around 16- to 19- year-olds, through the social policy deputy’s committee.

 

MR. ORRELL: My concern is that when the funding wasn’t there for a 16- to 19- year-old to be looked after - and I’ll use the example of their home life, they may be couch surfing - the ability to keep them in school will impact on their ability to either stay at home or the housing, whatever the necessary needs are. If that’s the case, having a stable home or outside-of-school life should add to a stable school life - we hope - with that and justice and so on and so forth.

 

I’m hoping that when this does happen that might be a form of funding that you guys could tap into for keeping a kid in school or to be able to impact the funding they get outside, so that might be an impact on keeping them in school. We all know in this day and age if they don’t have that school system and that background they’re starting at a disadvantage no matter what.

 

I’m just hoping that when this does get consulted with that there’s real heavy consultation between yourselves, Community Services, Justice, and all of the groups involved, and I would encourage that as best as we possibly can. Thank you very much.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. Moore, did you want to speak to that?

 

MS. MOORE: No, I think that’s fine.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. Miller.

 

MS. MILLER: Evaluation is always an important part of any kind of program. I know you’ve been evaluated, can you tell me what has come from that, what are the key findings?

 

MS. MOORE: The key findings were that there was more engagement with families and youth that hadn’t been engaged or students who might be suspended long term that there’s a way to reach out to them and to find out the reasons why they might have chronic attendance. The evaluation found that there was a lot more inter-agency collaboration, that there were more programs and services being offered in schools that had SchoolsPlus. The evaluation did a lot of one-on-one interviews, they did focus groups, they did online surveys, they did surveys of students, families, service providers, school staff; government officials were interviewed.

 

MR. GLOVER: One of the things that helped me to appreciate it was that we had indeed started this process from the ground and built ourselves from the ground up. It was having a tremendous impact, but it was also necessitating us looking at what had to be done from the top down in terms of legislation, government structure, collaboration, and communication across government departments. That has helped us to refocus our attention.

 

Also as an external review it really guided us in terms of the critical things, the markers we should be watching along the path of implementation. We had to look at how we supported the regional advisory committees. Tara convenes regularly, as well, a provincial network because we were discovering that it’s one thing to have flexibility but there also had to be some common elements for there to be some integrity to the initiative.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. MacDonald.

 

MS. MACDONALD: I have three kinds of questions, three focuses. I want to look at the complex cases. You say there are about 550 a month and I’m wondering what kind of analysis is done with respect to the characteristics of those cases and whether or not we’re improving the ability to get interventions, I guess, to deal with those.

 

Yesterday I had a conversation with a parent who has a 15-year-old daughter in the school system who is having quite a number of difficulties. The parent will have to wait seven months to get an assessment done at the IWK. I don’t know that that situation would fall into the complex cases kind of category but I’m wondering what kind of monitoring or evaluation we’re doing with respect to actually lessening wait times for interventions, if that has been built into the program as one of the objectives, let’s say, that we want to see more rapid intervention. So that’s one question that I have.

 

Another question I have is around summer programming, not recreational programming but specifically the clinical piece. What kind of coverage are we going to see and where, over the summer months, with respect to clinical programming?

 

The last question I would have is about access to schools. We have this amazing capital asset in the schools in our province but they often sit unoccupied and unavailable. I’m wondering, for example, what are the arrangements with the P3 schools. Is there any difference in getting access in those schools, to schools in the public domain 100 per cent? Those are three follow-up questions that I have.

 

MS. MOORE: Okay, that’s a lot of questions. The wait times for assessments would vary; the IWK would be different than some of the former district health authorities. I know that the CAPA model has helped with wait times. With SchoolsPlus, the mental health clinicians, there aren’t wait times, or it might be a week. So seeing the school’s mental health clinician is very quick but they may not be the qualified person to do a certain assessment.

 

There are some assessments they could do but some would be a referral to the clinic so they wouldn’t be able to jump the system. I don’t think they do. They are an employee so they do attend staff meetings, so there’s a better integration of the clinic now fully understanding the school system and the school system having a better understanding of the clinic by that but the actual wait times, that would have to be Health and Wellness that would be able to talk about those.

 

Part of the mental health clinician evaluation though, is one of the things they are looking at is caseloads for those SchoolsPlus mental health clinicians. But other earlier interventions that might not be assessments, there’s definitely a lot of that happening. And around accountability, I receive a monthly form from each of the hub sites on how many cases they have currently open, how many new referrals they received for the SchoolsPlus facilitator and community outreach worker - Health and Wellness would receive the referrals for the mental health clinician - how many programs they offered for the month, what were some of the barriers, what are the biggest successes of the month, what are their priorities for next month, and that gets sent to me every month. I am able to see trends.

 

A big trend is anxiety in school - children having a lot of anxiety - and based on that, there have been good collaborations in the summer. A number of the sites have run a summer day camp, and they’ve worked with their partners - women’s centres and transition homes and the mental health clinic and recreation - to run a program around how to lessen your anxieties, coping strategies. They’ve even done some really practical things, like Grade 6 students coming into the high school were really worried about if their lock would work and so they would do a practice run of using the lock and seeing where the washrooms are, they would get a visit and try to lessen anxiety.

 

The second one about summer clinical support, all of the mental health clinicians, just like the SchoolsPlus sites, are available over the summer. Last year they found that not everyone wants to see their clinician over the summer, they’re involved in going away with their families on vacations and things like that so sometimes there are less appointments made or attended, but SchoolsPlus carries an individual direct caseload for those who still need support over the summer, and the mental health clinicians do as well.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Can I just ask a follow-up on that? I noticed when you did your presentation that a lot of the referrals are initiated by members of the team. I would presume that would include teachers and people who are there in the regular time of the year that wouldn’t necessarily be there in the summer months to make referrals.

 

MS. MOORE: The referrals, I believe, for the school mental health clinicians still come out of the clinic so even if a teacher wanted to suggest a referral or SchoolsPlus, they would say, do you want me to call the clinic with you? They keep track of the records at central referral, or whatever the clinic office is, but then it’s assigned to the SchoolsPlus mental health clinicians. That clinic is still running and taking referrals all summer long, just as it would - and SchoolsPlus would be working with them. A lot of the referrals aren’t just from teachers, more referrals are to the SchoolsPlus facilitator and community outreach worker.

 

The mental health ones, for the most part, are parents calling the mental health clinic and they’ll say, can I get in, and they’ll now have another choice. They’ll say where do you live, oh you live in Sackville, would you be interested in seeing the school mental health clinician? If they say yes, generally they get seen right away, so that would be the same in the summer as well.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: So that’s the end of my list . . .

 

MS. MACDONALD: No, I have one more about the P3 schools and the whole access question.

 

MS. MOORE: I know a little bit about P3s. I know that some of the SchoolsPlus sites are in P3 schools and I think it depends on who the owner is of the P3. I don’t know enough, but I know in some of the SchoolsPlus sites that are P3 schools, there’s great access and no issues, and then there may be a few more avenues that you have to get approval from some of the other P3s.

 

MR. GLOVER: If their proposal for a SchoolsPlus expansion involves having their hub site at a P3 site, we ask them in advance of submitting their proposal to have worked with the P3 site to make certainty of access.

 

MS. MACDONALD: This is the board?

 

MR. GLOVER: Yes.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Ok, thank you.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. That’s the end of our questions. I’m asking if you have any closing remarks.

 

MS. MCKENZIE: My closing remarks would be that I’d like to thank Don Glover and Tara Moore for an amazing job in terms of answering the questions. I appreciate the opportunity to come here today to talk about SchoolsPlus. I know that we’ve committed to getting some information back to this table and we will do that as quickly as we can.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. We all want to thank you, it was really, really informative. It’s a really exciting service for our communities. Thank you very much. We’re going to be taking a small recess and then we’ll be concluding for our ABCs.

 

[11:30 a.m. The committee recessed.]

 

[11:36 a.m. The committee reconvened.]

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I call the meeting back to order. We’re going to be doing some appointments to the ABCs, starting with the Department of Agriculture. Ms. Miller.

 

MS. MILLER: Madam Chairman, I am happy to do the Farm Loan Board of Nova Scotia. I’m very familiar with them after farming for so many years.

 

To the Farm Loan Board of Nova Scotia, I move that Arnold Park be appointed as chair, and Steve Brown and William Versteeg as directors.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

For the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Mr. Rankin.

 

MR. IAIN RANKIN: Madam Chairman, I move that Dee Applebee, Francene Cosman, Rod McCulloch, Patricia Pace, and Sally Warren be appointed to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Board of Governors as governors.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. ORRELL: I just have a quick concern - it seems like there has been a pattern developing over the last number of appointments that we’ve had these boards. One of the people appointed as a governor is a former Liberal Cabinet Minister, an MLA, and I want to go on the record with that concern. It’s a pattern that has been developing over the last little while.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

Mr. Rankin, do you want to keep going with that department?

 

MR. RANKIN: It’s the same department. I move that Peter Crofton Davies, Elizabeth Fox, Gregory MacNeil, and Stephen Ross Mills be appointed to the Advisory Council on Heritage Property as members.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

The Department of Health and Wellness, please, Mr. Jessome.

 

MR. JESSOME: Madam Chairman, I move that Michele Brennan and Wageesha Wickramaratna be appointed to the College of Dental Hygienists of Nova Scotia as members.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

Mr. Jessome, would you like to continue with the department?

 

MR. JESSOME: Madam Chairman, I move that Lynn Miller be appointed to the Nova Scotia Prescription Monitoring Board as a board member who represents the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

Now we have the Department of Service Nova Scotia. Mr. Maguire, please.

 

MR. MAGUIRE: Madam Chairman, I move that Vishal Bhardwaj, Peter DeWolf, Murray Doucette, John Nause, Daniel Penticost, and Sharon Taylor-Schnare be appointed to the Film Classifiers, Alcohol and Gaming Division as film classifiers.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Orrell.

 

MR. ORRELL: Madam Chairman, it’s disappointing to see that the people who are being appointed to these boards, especially like film classifiers - after what we’ve had go on here in the last month and a half or so with the budget and the Film Tax Credit, and so on and so forth, to have so many Liberal donors and outright Liberal supporters being appointed to these boards. We’ve had one guy that has been appointed to two boards now in the last two months and there are 30-some other people applying for these boards. It’s a disappointment to see that this is the way they are going to load these boards up to try to get support that I feel is trying to get support for some of the changes that might be made.

 

I just want to go on the record as saying it’s a very disappointing day when we have to start appointing these people when there are 30 and 40 other people out there looking for these appointments.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your comment.

 

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

We’re going on to the next thing on the agenda which is the next meeting. Ms. MacDonald.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Thank you. I want to bring an item to the table and that is with respect to the residency requirements for appointments to agencies, boards and commissions. I think we’re all very well aware that not that long ago we appointed someone to head up the new Crown Corporation for Tourism, who is no longer or is intending not to be a resident of the Province of Nova Scotia.

 

I would like to make a motion that all appointments to the province’s agencies, boards and commissions, both adjudicative and non-adjudicative, be restricted to permanent residents of the province, as defined by the Elections Act.

 

I have a copy of the Elections Act here which outlines what the qualifications are to be a voter in the Province of Nova Scotia and I would like to table these with the motion and this with the clerk. I don’t know if we have the capacity to get copies of that perhaps to the members of the committee. So that essentially, Madam Chairman, is what I’d like to bring forward.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: I’m going to ask that we defer that to the next meeting. We need to get a little more advice on whether the committee is allowed to make such a recommendation. If the member doesn’t mind, we can put that on our next agenda after we have advisement from counsel.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Madam Chairman, I would be amenable to that; that’s a fair request. I would also like, if it is possible, for the staff to the committee to look at other jurisdictions with respect to residents’ requirements of the appointments to agencies, boards and commissions in those jurisdictions.

 

Additionally, I’m looking at the application form that is filled out when somebody makes an application to serve on an agency, board or commission in Nova Scotia. There’s nothing on that application form which asks - I mean we ask for their address but we don’t ask whether or not they’re a permanent resident of the province. We don’t ask whether or not their primary residence is in the Province of Nova Scotia, so I would also ask that we take a look at our application form.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. We’ll look into all those things for the next meeting and put it on our agenda.

 

Is it agreed?

 

It is agreed.

 

I want to talk about the June 23rd meeting. We’ll be meeting from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. It’s the Collaborative Partnership Network. We would also like to do some agenda setting at that meeting, if we’re all in agreement. Okay, we’ll put that on the agenda.

 

During the months of July and August we’ll just be doing ABCs, if everybody is in agreement with that, and we’ll leave witnesses to pick back up again in September.

 

Is it agreed?

 

It is agreed.

 

Okay, I would like to thank everybody for coming - oh, sorry. Ms. MacDonald.

 

MS. MACDONALD: Just an inquiry, really, of my colleagues on the committee. With respect to the time of the next meeting, it’s scheduled for 10:00 a.m., but I’m wondering if there is any appetite to start earlier in the day and finish earlier in the day. I know some people like Ms. Miller have to drive in and my colleagues from Cape Breton and Pictou . . .

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: I believe Ms. Peterson-Rafuse brought it forward, she said it made it easier for them arriving during the day, but we can have a discussion on it. (Interruptions)

 

MS. MACDONALD: No, it would be okay with her for 9:00 a.m., I can assure you. (Laughter)

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: We’ll let you take responsibility for that. And what about you, Ms. MacFarlane?

 

MS. MACFARLANE: Madam Chairman, I realize that at the last meeting we did have the discussion and we all agreed that the summer meetings would be at 10:00 a.m. If you want to put a motion on the floor to vote again on that, well, that’s fine, I will vote.

 

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, let’s vote. Who would like to start at 9:00 a.m. for our next meeting on June 23rd? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

 

The motion is carried.

 

Sorry, Ms. MacFarlane, we will be starting at 9:00 a.m. on June 23rd and Ms. MacDonald will take responsibility with Ms. Peterson-Rafuse for that decision, we’ve all witnessed that.

 

With that, I’d like to thank everybody for coming and the meeting is adjourned. Thank you.

 

[The committee adjourned at 11:49 a.m.]