Five integrated teams are being set up in B.C. school districts to give students easier access to mental health supports.
The teams are to link health care and school resources to young people and family members, so they can get treatment “without having to tell their story over and over,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said Monday. The school district program is to be developed over the next two years, and the Maple Ridge pilot is to be in operation by December.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district will be the first pilot of the project, to deal with a sharp rise in identified mental health and addiction issues among children.
The province estimates there are currently 84,000 children aged four to 17 experiencing mental health disorders, and B.C. has seen an 86 per cent increase in hospitalizations of people under 25 for mental disorders between 2009 and 2017.
School districts are also beginning to teach mental health literacy in secondary schools, to help young people recognize issues before they become critical. The district teams will be involved in education as well as case work, and school districts have budgeted for extra training for teachers and counsellors.
“We know that resolving small issues before they become big ones helps to avoid needless suffering, and also costlier solutions down the road, Darcy said. “We also know that addressing trauma early on can make a life-long difference.”
The province is also expanding its Foundry youth centre network, which Darcy said is a “one-stop shop” for youth health resources. New Foundry centres are being established in Terrace, Richmond and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, in addition to existing facilities in Kelowna, Campbell River, Prince George, Abbotsford, Penticton, Victoria and Vancouver.