The provincial government will open a youth mental health facility in Moncton instead of Campbellton and use the partially finished building in the northern city as a rehabilitation centre.
Progressive Conservative Health Minister Ted Flemming announced the decision Thursday months after calls to relocate mental health facility.
Flemming said building the centre in Moncton would "increase access to the resources required to best meet the needs of young people struggling with mental health and addiction issues."
Flemming said the partially constructed building would be finished and used for "state of the art" rehabilitation programs for youth and adults with addictions and mental health needs.
Construction of the $14.4-million youth centre was described as about 90 per cent complete when work was halted earlier this year while a review of the plans was underway.
The facility was meant to be a "centre of excellence" that would serve as a service hub.
Bernard Richard, the province's former child and youth advocate, had issued a report in 2011 calling for it to be constructed in an urban centre near a university research facility, close to specialized services and in a place where recruitment and retention would be easy.
Flemming said the Health Department reviewed previous reports, including Richard's, and consulted various groups to make its decision.
Liberal MLAs representing the Campbellton region decried the move.
"We're not pleased with it," Campbellton-Dalhousie MLA Guy Arseneault told reporters at the legislature while standing beside Restigouche West MLA Gilles LePage.
"My opinion is, if there's a centre for youth excellence for mental health, it should be in Campbellton, it shouldn't be relocated," Arseneault added.
Mayor 'over the moon'
The government plans to spend $10 million in 2020-21 to repurpose the Campbellton building, according to a news release. It will have 24 beds, up from the planned 18.
Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin said Flemming told her about the decision on Tuesday, and she called it a "win-win" for the region.
"I'm over the moon to know they aren't mothballing the facility completely," Anglehart-Paulin said.
She said the community has a greater need for rehabilitation services.
Flemming told reporters the province is looking at options for a youth centre location in Moncton, which could include existing space. He said Richard will assist the province to determine the location.
"We are back to doing it the way it should have been done in the first place," Flemming said. "The experts are being listened to. … We will do it right this time."
Flemming said earlier this year that cancelling the almost-finished youth centre in Campbellton was a possibility.
Interior work on the building was suspended after ombud Charles Murray recommended cancellation.
Murray had raised concerns about attracting enough qualified staff to that area of northern New Brunswick.
A report by Murray released in February described significant mistreatment and inadequate care at the Restigouche Hospital Centre, next door to the youth centre.
'Worst public policy decision'
Donald Arseneault, then-Liberal MLA for the area, had defended the choice that he said was made because of Campbellton's track record with health-care facilities like the psychiatric hospital and detox centre.
Partners for Youth also called on the province to reconsider locating the youth centre and instead look at moving it to a more central location.
"Today, we begin a new process to get this right for kids," John Sharpe, director of development with Partners for Youth, said Thursday.
Flemming had questioned the decision to build it in Campbellton in the first place.
"Every credible expert said, 'Don't put it there,' and government did it anyway," Flemming said in February.
On Thursday, he began the announcement by saying it wasn't a political decision to shift the youth centre to Moncton.