'Families in Haliburton County can get care closer to home'

Bringing care closer to children and families is one of the goals of a recent move by Five Counties Children's Centre to open a more permanent location in Haliburton County.

The organization serving children with special needs has signed a new lease for space at the Minden site of Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS), located at 6 McPherson Street.

The renovated, approximately 700-square-foot space is just off the main entrance, situated on the second floor of the community health wing of the HHHS site.

Bill Eekhof, spokesperson for Five Counties Children's Centre, told kawarthaNOW there are a few wins in terms of the biggest benefits of having this space.

"It means that Five Counties will have a more permanent and prominent location in Haliburton County — as we're fortunate to have at the HHHS site in Minden — that makes it easier for us to serve and support kids and families in the community," Eekhof said.

"It means families in Haliburton County can get care closer to home without the need to drive to Lindsay or Peterborough to get it."

Five Counties said "it's a homecoming of sorts" as it re-establishes the centre's physical presence in Haliburton County, and the space will ultimately allow Five Counties staff to see and support more kids, youth and families in Haliburton County.

"We are pleased to reach agreement with (HHHS) on this space," said Scott Pepin, CEO of Five Counties Children's Centre, in a media release.

Five Counties has previously leased another portion of the HHHS site in Minden. That arrangement came to an end when HHHS had to reclaim the space during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"HHHS is delighted to welcome Five Counties Children's Centre back into our building," said Veronica Nelson, president and CEO of HHHS.

"Five Counties' dedication to the community through therapy and treatment services to support children with physical, developmental, and communication needs and their families, is inspiring. HHHS looks forward to a continued partnership with Five Counties to bring health and well-being to our younger local population."

Five Counties provides speech, occupational, and physical therapies, as well as other kids' treatment services, in Haliburton County, Peterborough County, City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County.

Five Counties staff work in centre sites in Minden, Lindsay, Peterborough, Cobourg and Campbellford, as well as in local schools and virtually to support children and youth from birth up to age 19 (or age 21 if still in school).

Five Counties was established in Peterborough in 1975 but has supported families in Haliburton County since the late 1980s. Last year, Five Counties served more than 6,200 children and youth across its region — the most in its history. Of this total, nearly 250 kids and youth received treatment services in Haliburton County.

"We know that early intervention — especially when it comes to how a child talks or walks — is so important to help kids reach their full potential," Pepin said.

"Parents and caregivers are dealing with so much already if their child has been diagnosed or identified with unique needs that impact their development. That's why making it easier for families to get the help they need when they need right in their own community is essential."

Post-pandemic, Five Counties had been searching for a new space in Haliburton County. In the past year or so, Five Counties opened a new satellite location at Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden, using a repurposed classroom for treatment space. That space has been useful as a base of operations for Five Counties staff to see local families and provide treatment in area schools, the centre noted.

"We're extremely grateful to the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, which has been very generous in allowing us to use the classroom space as a way to see kids, students and families right here in their own community," Pepin said.

Even with Five Counties moving into the HHHS site in Minden, the centre will continue to use the space at Archie Stouffer school for physiotherapy services, as the wider space there is ideal for this treatment.

Plans are in the works later this spring to hold an official public open house to mark the return of Five Counties to the HHHS site in Minden.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, KawarthaNOW