After nearly four years as executive director of Youth Services Bureau (YSB), Alex Munter is leaving the organization. Munter has accepted an appointment as chief executive officer of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). He will take up the position on Jan 24, 2011.
Munter came to YSB in 2007 after leaving municipal government — he lost the mayoral election in 2006. As city councillor, Munter was chair of the Health and Social Services Committee at city hall; with YSB receiving 12 percent of its funding from the city, Munter was very familiar with the agency.
However, Munter says that being on the inside of the organization was a different experience from observing it from the outside, and he was initially unaware of the breadth of YSB’s impact on the greater community.
“Once I got inside the organization I realized that all the things that I had admired it for, from afar, were quite true. It is a values-driven organization that on a daily basis makes a huge impact in every corner of our city,” says Munter. “The thing that struck me when I arrived was that the impact was even greater and the reach was even greater than I had realized.”
YSB serves between 2,500 and 3,000 youth and families each month at 20 locations around the city. The agency has been a pioneer on many levels, including queer issues. In the 1980s, YSB adopted a policy framework around gay and lesbian issues. Today it has an active youth-engagement program that gives voice to LGBT youth within the agency and in the community.
In the four years that Munter has been with YSB, the agency has grown by one-third. It has expanded many of its programs for youth and families and launched new initiatives that include an addiction, mental health and primary-care health clinic; a youth mental hub; an employment program; and a program to help young offenders turn their lives around.
The agency’s governance and administration processes have been renewed, and monitoring and evaluation procedures for assessing programs have been put in place. In the next few weeks, the agency will officially launch the YSB Charitable Foundation, which aims to strengthen the link between the community and YSB.
Munter does not accept credit for what has been accomplished in his four years. He believes that in organizations like YSB, such progress can be made only with the commitment of everyone in the organization.
“I am proud of the work we have all done together. I think that in a large complex organization like Youth Services Bureau that has 350 staff, it really is a team effort, and success can only happen when people pull together and make it happen,” says Munter.
Munter believes the role of executive director is to mobilize people toward a shared goal.
“I think an executive director in an agency like this is a facilitator, a negotiator — somebody who puts the pieces of the puzzle together. But it does really take a whole lot of work by a whole lot of people to get these kinds of things done,” says Munter.
This year YSB celebrates its 50th anniversary. Most of the priority projects developed in the strategic plan, drawn up when Munter first came to the agency, have either been completed or are on the way to completion.
“I am very pleased and proud to bring the agency to its 50th birthday. I think we are stronger than we have ever been; we’re more solid than we’ve ever been, and we are well positioned for the next 50 years.”
Munter’s decision to leave YSB was not made lightly; he was approached twice by LHIN before he applied for the position. It is because YSB is in a strong position that Munter feels he can move on to his new role at LHIN.
LHIN has an annual budget of $2.25 billion, which funds 211 healthcare agencies across the region, including hospitals, long-term care homes and community health centres.
Munter feels that LHIN can play a leading role in strengthening the health and social services system by focusing on the people who use the services.
“We should be building our health and social services system, not on the needs of organizations but on the needs of the individual patients and residents,” says Munter.
Munter is excited about the future but is equally aware of the challenges he will face. He plans to spend his first few months at LHIN listening: to the health organizations within LHIN, to the people who work in them, to the people who depend on them for care and service, and to the community.
“The health and social service system is really woven into the daily fabric of our lives, and so it really is an important piece of the puzzle of what our community feels like and is like,” says Munter.
Losing Munter will be a loss to YSB, but he is confident that the timing is right and that his successor will have an opportunity to continue making a difference at YSB. For his part, Munter is embracing the next step in his life and the chance to bring his own values to a new organization.
“I will bring with me my values around inclusion, respect for human rights and the dignity of all people into that work as well,” says Munter.