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New mental health and substance-use supports coming to SD20

More supports coming for children and youth in Kootenay-Columbia School District
Students across the district will have access to more mental-health supports. Photo: John Boivin

Additional mental health and substance-use supports for children and youth are headed to Kootenay-Columbia School District 20.

The district is receiving new provincial funding and support to establish an Integrated Child and Youth (ICY) team as part of the province’s Pathway to Hope strategy.

“We are quite excited,” said SD20 superintendent Katherine Shearer. “It will take some work to pull it all together, but it looks like a really great thing for our communities.”

ICY teams are multidisciplinary partners that deliver wraparound mental health and substance-use services and supports for children and youth up to age 19. The goal is to make it easier for youth, families and caregivers to access care when and where they need it, including in schools.

The new teams will connect children, young people and families to counselling, peer and cultural supports. They will provide assessments and screenings, consultation and therapeutic services. The teams represent both an increase in services and better co-ordination between existing services.

Evidence of the need for more substance-use supports for youth can be found in statistics recently released by the province for overdose calls in 2022. Across the Interior Health region, paramedics responded to 57 overdose calls last year for people aged 18 and under. Four of those calls ended up as fatalities. Province-wide, 34 youth died from toxic drug levels in 2022.

According to the province, approximately 75 per cent of serious mental health issues emerge before the age of 25. In B.C., almost 13 per cent of children between four and 18 years are affected by mental-health disorders, but just 44 per cent of those receive services.

While it is too early in the process for exact details regarding SD20’s program, Shearer says the local team will include one new full-time clinical counsellor and one new half-time peer support worker. They will be joined by representatives from Interior Health, the Ministry of Children and Families and Child and Youth Mental Health.

The timeline to fully implement the new program will take 18-24 months.

Part of the reason for the long roll-out period is that each school district has been given the freedom to mold the ICY team program to meet its own local needs.

Decisions on where to headquarter the team and offer services will be looked at in the coming months. But Shearer says the district is open to trying to find space in local schools.

Several other school districts in B.C. have already instituted ICY teams and SD20 has contracted a retired deputy superintendent from one of those districts to help guide the local process along.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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