Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre has officially opened its new child and youth mental health unit.

The new $5-million unit has eight inpatient beds and day programs. It has large, open areas to be active, opportunities to interact with family, and do school work. They're even planning to hire a teacher.

“We know that if we can identify a mental illness in children and youth they're outcome is much better because they receive care earlier," Janice Skot, hospital president and CEO.

The Barrie area was the only part of Ontario without a hospital-based youth mental health program. In the last year, 1,100 local children went to a hospital emergency room for mental healthcare.

"The care would be limited and there would be issues with distance and placement," Dr. Eric Mulder, RVH chief of psychiatry.

Until now, the waitlist for help has been up to a year, and often meant going to North Bay or Newmarket.

"They’re going to be getting fairly significant amount of interaction with the specialists and they're going to be able to understand what the issue is as well as what the treatment plan is going to look like both here in the hospital and once they're discharged," says Mulder.

One in five children struggles with mental illness.