Local team improving mental health services for youth
There is a team working hard to improve mental health and substance use services for youth in the West Kootenay that might have flown under your radar.
For the last three years, the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative (CYMHSU) West Kootenay Local Action Team (WK LAC) has been examining current services and working on streamlining and improving the coordination of these services.
The official purpose of the CYMHSU is to “increase the number of children, youth and their families receiving timely access to integrated mental health and substance use services and supports.”
The WK LAC was one of the first of the now 64 teams in British Columbia to come together.
The West Kootenay Local Action Team consists of clinicians, school district psychologists, physicians, one parent, one youth and representatives from Interior Health, Family Action Network, Circle of Indigenous Nations, RCMP, SD20, SD8, Freedom Quest and Kootenay Family Place.
“The exciting part is that we have been able to pull all these partners, including doctors, to do this work together,” said project manager with Shared Care Initiative, Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice, Rachel Schmidt.
The idea for the team began with a province-wide move to look at children’s mental health and substance use services.
Families were struggling and not getting the help they needed.
“There was a cry for help, not only from families, but from doctors across the province and from professionals, saying we really need to look at how we are supporting these families and what we need to do differently,” explained Schmidt.
How to improve services is left up to each individual team. Increasing communication and coordinating services were both areas that were identified as needing improvement locally.
KB Searchlight Website
One of the first initiatives the team tackled was interviewing all the area service providers to fully understand the services offered and things like wait times and referral protocols. The results of their fact-gathering mission were compiled into a family-friendly website KB Searchlight.
“The information on Kootenay Searchlight is really to let families know they are not alone,” said Schmidt. “That is our number one core message from the action team — nobody out there has to feel that you are alone. There are so many of us involved in this work who care deeply about families and children.”
The website contains a wide range of information broken down by city or by type of service. It also includes videos and tips by a parent and several youth who have experience dealing with mental health issues. There is a frequently-asked-questions section, as well as self-help resources, provincial resources, and crisis information.
“Even if you feel like you are getting stalled, or are on a wait list, there are other ways to get support and have conversations with people who maybe have an experience similar to you,” added Schmidt.
Physician trainingTheir second task was to increase the number of physicians who have completed a child and youth mental health practice support program training module. Twenty-seven local physicians have now completed the course. The module gives the doctors standardized tests, referral protocols and algorithms to help them when treating their patients and coordinating care.
Community outreachThe team is also involved in a lot of community education and outreach into schools. They are currently doing a round of consultations at every high school in the region. Stanley Humphries is scheduled for Feb. 21.
“It is meant to be a cross dialogue to foster a stronger sense of community between the professionals and the teachers. Sometimes the teachers feel like they are left alone in all of this,” explained Schmidt. “We want to make sure that we have a strong community presence for all families and youth and that they feel like they are connected whether they are at school, or at the library or in their counsellors office.”
Wraparound care coordinationThe team is promoting a new way of looking at case coordination — the Wraparound Initiative.
“We decided to test a highly specialized care coordination model here in the West Kootenay,” said Schmidt. She explained that this particular model has very specific steps that when followed often result in a very successful outcome for families.
“If you have a youth who is really struggling with moderate to complex mental health or substance use issues and they are trying to deal with two or three or four service providers, it is so important you have a case coordination model that families have a strong voice in and you have all these professionals together that are increasing their coordination and communication,” explained Schmidt. This model has already been used with about 15 families and Schmidt reports seeing real success with it.
“That is the deeper-dive this committee has really been taking — testing out whether or not as professionals we can really support families in a holistic wraparound way if there are very serious concerns,” added Schmidt.
As part of the wraparound initiative organizers are looking for volunteers that would like to receive training to become part of the peer support team that is available to clients. According to WK LAT, “Families tell us that the key to making wraparound work is having peer contacts available in their own community. Someone who has had similar experiences, or a caring adult who can listen, provide a helping hand and be a support when needed.”
In the wraparound approach families get to choose who is on their team, but sometimes don’t have family or friends that can be a part of their support network.
“There might be volunteers out there who have some lived experience, or can share some sage advice, or could be a sounding board for a parent who is having a really rough time,” said Schmidt.
To this end a workshop will take place in Castlegar on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at Interior Health. If you are interested in attending, register at firstname.lastname@example.org and more information will be forwarded to you.
Access helpIf someone in your family is struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues contact your local Child and Youth Mental Health office (Ministry of Children and Family Development) or Freedom Quest, both take self referrals.
The program is sponsored by Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Interior Health Authority, Inter-Divisional Strategic Council, and the Shared Care Committee. It is coordinated locally by the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice.