Mike Weir and his foundation helping fund youth mental health facility in Sarnia, Ont.

Citing an 'important venture,’ Brights Grove, Ont. native Mike Weir is back in his hometown for the first time in two years.

Weir hosted his second annual Par 3 Challenge event at Huron Oaks Golf Course, with funds going toward building an ACCESS Open Minds youth support facility for Sarnia-Lambton.

Weir launched a drive toward building this site in Sarnia, Ont. in 2019, and to date his foundation has raised $1.8 million. When they started out, that would have been enough to cover all the costs, but with construction prices going up recently, it will take nearly $3 million to complete the project.

"To be frank, my daughters have struggled with some things and mental health," says Weir, explaining his passion for this project.

"I've seen the benefit of what great counselling can do on a personal level with my family. I've talked to my nieces and nephews, and friends and family who have children or acquaintances that had kids that have struggled with mental health, and we just haven't had the resources to help them."

The goal to bring an ACCESS Open Minds facility targeting 12-25 year olds began four years ago. Construction will being this week at the site which is at the corner of Front Street and Lochiel Street in downtown Sarnia.

"We're in a youth mental health crisis in Sarnia-Lambton," says Janessa Laverty, a member of the Spoken Hope youth advisory council with the project.

"The services here are very inadequate. Youth are being sent to the hospital which is not the place for young people and the other services in Lambton county have a waitlist of like 90 or more days. And it's, yeah, something needed to be done so this service is absolutely like a game changer. All the services are under one roof and the youth are only going to have to wait 72 hours to get the help they need."

Monday night, members of the 13-member Spoken Hope team were able to meet with Weir at the site of the future facility. They thanked him for funding the majority of the project, and emphasized when this project is so important.

"It is really disheartening for youth right now," says Bella McGill, another member of Spoken Hope.

"It's already terrifying enough to reach out, and then on top of that you're being told now you have to wait three months. When they want help, they'll be able to get it in 72 hours so that's really needed.”

Weir agreed that three months to see a therapist is unacceptable.

"This facility will really help those kids in an emergency or with just ongoing health and mental health," says Weir, who was playing a Champions Tour event in Michigan over the weekend before coming home.

"It's been brought to the forefront here in the last few years and we really want to spearheadthis with help from the community".

COVID-19 has driven an increase in overdoses and mental health calls. In Sarnia, overdoses went up nearly 50 per cent over the past year. A new facility built by March 2022, will hopefully start to turn those statistics in the opposite direction.

"When you think about mental health and addiction, it goes beyond the individual patients," says Mike Lapaine, CEO of Bluewater Health.

"Many of their family, friends, and peer support groups are also affected by the illness of one individual. When you help one individual, you can actually help over a dozen other people so the ripple effect of this type of support is just immense for a community.”

Lapaine feels this will help get youth treatment in the proper facility.

"We want to have a wraparound service that prevents mental health patients particularly that critical age group from 11 to 25 from ever having to go to hospital," says Lapaine. "That would be a real win for us.”