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New B.C. pilot project aims to help youth in crisis

Province spends almost $2 million on expanding services at BC Children’s Hospital

The provincial government promises that more than 700 youth will benefit from a pilot partnership between the BC Children’s Hospital and a foundation that supports youth dealing with trauma-based mental health and addictions issues.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside said Wednesday (June 28) Dan’s Legacy Foundation will receive $1.73 million to support young people, who are experiencing substance-use challenges while receiving care at the hospital.

Whiteside said the agreement allows young people aged 15 to 25 to access counselling and other supports from the foundation’s social workers, outreach workers and therapists when admitted to BC Children’s Hospital after-hours when hospital staff are not available.

“This partnership also ensures that young people are connected to Dan’s Legacy counselling services and that they maintain this connection with the therapists, social workers and outreach workers when they leave the hospital and go back to their community,” Whiteside added.

Tom Littlewood, program director with Dan’s Legacy, said the money would allow the foundation to provide 10 therapists and three social workers, adding that the foundation hopes to have 18 therapists by the end of the year. “So this will allow us to provide on-call therapists to Children’s Hospital as a pilot to see how this will work in the long-term,” Littlewood said.

Littlewood added that timing matters. “Being called in in when the child is in need really is important,” Littlewood said.

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Sarah Bell, BC Children’s Hospital’s chief operating officer, welcomed the funding.

“Today’s announcement is another important step in enhancing our capacity and access to vital support for youth struggling with addictions,” Bell said, adding that her hospital provides expert health care for the most seriously ill and injured children in British Columbia.

“(The) reality is that also includes children and youth with substance abuse problems,” she said. Just under 13 per cent of children aged four to 18 years, or nearly 95,000 children, experience mental health disorders causing significant symptoms and impairment at any time, she said. “It’s estimated that 70 per cent of mental health and 90 per cent of substance use problems have their onset during childhood and adolescence.”

Whiteside said the money announced Wednesday is part and parcel of her government’s commitment to “urgently build up an integrated system of mental health and addictions care that will work for all British Columbians particularly youth.”

Whiteside added that government has committed an “unprecedented” $1 billion to build that system, including $236 million for youth mental health and addiction services across the province, pointing to the expansion of the foundry system, a network of centres for youth supplying various services.

But she also acknowledged that more needs to be done in signalling additional announcements.

Last week, Whiteside announced 24 new publicly-funded substance-use treatment beds Thursday (June 15) with 18 located at the Phoenix Society in Surrey and six at Covenant House in Vancouver.

Whiteside’s predecessor Judy Darcy had announced in mid-August 2020 that the provincial government would invest $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds to double the then-existing numbers of beds. The ministry said at the time that all beds would be available in 2022.

Last week’s announcement means 47 of the 123 promised beds are either operational or soon to be operational. Another 10 of the beds announced Thursday are funded outside the investment for the 123 beds, so the total number of beds opened since August 2020 is 57.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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