Inverness’ municipal leaders and Raising the Villages invited folks from throughout the local area to discuss children’s wellness on June 26.

PORT HOOD: Inverness Municipal Councillor Jim Mustard had three questions for those gathered at the municipal office when discussing the collective health and prosperity of young ones.

“What’s working? What’s not working? And what more is needed?”

Inverness council, in partnership with Raising the Villages – Mawiomi w’jit Mijuwajijk, hosted a gathering on June 19, at which time Mustard asked those questions. Folks in attendance included supporters of early childhood wellness throughout Inverness, Richmond and Victoria counties, as well as the Town of Port Hawkesbury.

Raising the Villages – Mawiomi w’jit Mijuwajijk was formed in 2017 as a response to the One Nova Scotia Coalition’s Ivany Report. The report outlined a number of action points meant to aid in reversing outmigration and poor economic performance of the province.

The number one recommendation from that report was to assist communities in early years’ development so that youth could “start strong.”

Discussion at last Wednesday’s meeting saw attendees flesh out a number of positives and negatives, in relation to how the local area fosters wellness in youth.

Some of the things identified as working included the province’s pre-primary program, a program that allows four-year old kids to get a taste of school before entering grade primary, allowing them an easier transition into the education system.

Nurturing environments at homes and schools is another key way to make youth healthy and prosperous, attendees agreed, and the local area seems to have a good volunteer base to draw from. With that, there are safe spaces for moms available locally and support places like playgroups.

Bayview Education Centre remaining open after concerns that the province might close the facility was a major boon for young kids, the group agreed. Bayview is the site of a still-being-constructed daycare facility called the Bayview Child Development Centre.

Some areas in which the local area could improve, the attendees said, is greater support for grandparents and extended family, as it’s not only parents in charge of children’s wellness.

A major drawback for the local area is reduced medical services at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital for expectant mothers, the attendees agreed. Indeed, pediatrician service being scaled back at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish caused one attendee to call local medical service a “complete violation of human rights.”

Expanding the staff compliment of Early Childhood Development Intervention Services was an idea floated by Inverness Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie.

Early Childhood Intervention’s Port Hawkesbury office has two staff members covering Inverness and Richmond counties, with a third staffer working out of the Antigonish area for Conseil scolaire acadien provincial schools. Warden MacQuarrie said Inverness Council should press for expanded staff in the area, and Mustard was shocked that such a small number of staffers was covering a large geographical area.

Perhaps the biggest development from the meeting regarded hiring a municipal facilitator for early childhood wellness, but that idea is still very much in the planning stage.

Melanie Beaton, special projects fascinator for Inverness County, said specifics about the position would have to be determined in coordination with an advisory group.

“This is an initial meeting to find out if there’s interest for there to be an advisory group to flesh out things,” she said.

Once the parameters of the position are defined, then Beaton would be in a position to look for funding.