A new start: Community supports for youth

17 June 2016

The Government of British Columbia and partners collectively will be investing more than $7.5 million to support youth who are at risk of substance-use and mental-health concerns with the launch of a new, Integrated Youth Services Initiative. The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is a proud funding partner of this initiative and will be providing $800,000 toward evaluation and research.

“When you’re young and facing challenges associated with mental health or substance use, it can be challenging to find and get the help you need,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We’ve seen success with this approach at the Granville Youth Health Centre, and our hope is that with the integrated and personal help that will be provided by additional centres, we’re empowering youth and families to get back on track.”

“Even one young person who’s struggling with mental-health or substance-use challenges is one too many,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux. “Each of these five new youth health centres will make it easier for young people throughout B.C. to get the help they need to achieve wellness and reach their full potential.”

By offering easy access to core services including primary care, mental health and substance use, youth and family navigation supports, housing, supported employment, income assistance and education supports, the service centres will aim to improve health and social outcomes of young people aged 12 to 24 years. The centres are expected to be fully operational by March 2017, with the first centre expected to open in the fall of 2016.

“When your child needs help, you want to know what services are available and how to access them,” said Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell. “At these centres, youth and their families will be able to easily connect with service providers and health professionals, finding the supports they need as they move towards adulthood.”

“The funding from the Province and our partners will be a game-changer for communities in B.C. in serving young people,” said Dr. Steve Mathias, executive director, BC Integrated Youth Services Initiative. “It has helped bring together existing resources, build new partnerships and create a model of care that will transform systems and help ensure our young people can get the help they need, when they need it.”

Providing holistic care through teams made up of primary-care providers, social workers and counsellors means that the centres can address the multiple needs that a young person may have. This integrated approach will allow for earlier interventions and prevent the challenges that young people are experiencing from deteriorating into more serious health concerns. The centres are expected to serve between 1,200 and 2,500 youth each.

“The team at the Granville Youth Health Centre welcome you in, they treat you like a family member, and just like a family member they don’t give up on you – even when you give up on yourself,” said Tianna Waugh-Richards, a young adult who is a client at the Granville Youth Health Centre.

In addition to $3 million provided by the Ministry of Health to the InnerChange Foundation to help develop the centres, the centres are supported by additional partner funding. This includes a $1.5-million investment from the Graham Boeckh Foundation and commitments from InnerChange Foundation and St. Paul’s Foundation to each fundraise $1.5 million.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has committed to providing in-kind resources in the form of child and youth mental-health clinicians and youth social-work services for each centre. The Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation will have navigators available to help youth with developmental disabilities plan for their transition to adulthood as well as workers that can help youth access income and disability assistance benefits.

The new health and social-service centres will add to existing provincial supports to address the needs of youth living with substance use issues and/or mental illness. These services include:

  • Community-based children and youth mental-health services, with help for anxiety through the school-based FRIENDS program, which provides children with the tools they need to cope with anxiety and stress.
  • Vulnerable youth getting help with health care, shelter and social support through Vancouver’s Inner City Youth team.
  • Specialized mental-health beds at BC Children’s Hospital.

The Ministry of Health invests approximately $1.4 billion every year in mental-health and substance-use services.

To ensure the Province’s range of mental-health and substance-use programs work effectively together, the Province is developing an integrated, cross-government mental-health and substance-use strategy for British Columbia. This work includes a review of current child and youth mental-health and substance-use programs and services. The goal is to address key gaps in the current system and ensure individuals and families can access support services early, before they find themselves in a crisis.

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