The North Coast, once identified as an area significantly lacking in support for youth mental health and substance abuse concerns, is quickly becoming a hotbed of activity in addressing those very topics.
In addition to Northern Health adding a full-time psychiatric liaison nurse position to the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital this fall, a new collaborative is scheduled to hit Prince Rupert next week that will identify gaps in services and contribute solutions to youth mental health and substance abuse issues.
The Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Collaborative, a program of the SharedCare initiative, is a provincial-based partnership between the Doctors of BC and the B.C. Ministry of Health with the goal of increasing the number of children, youth and their families receiving timely access to integrated mental health and substance use services.
The collaborative’s purpose, in addition to helping with timely care, is to position the children, youth and families themselves in a place where they can influence decisions related to the program, its design and clinical practice and policy development.
The SharedCare initiative has had input from three different B.C. ministries, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and the Ministry of Education.
“The collaborative responds to invitations by the communities,” said CYMHSU Collaborative project director Valerie Tregillus last week, adding that it was a MCFD leader for Prince Rupert, who contacted the organization.
An exploratory conversation will take place next Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 12 – 2 p.m. at the Prince Rupert Library meeting room. There, the program will be outlined to any and all stakeholders in the community who work with children and youth mental health.
“We listen to the community – what issues they are experiencing, then we’ll provide background information on the collaborative, and then if we feel like the collaborative can add value to the community, then we’ll talk about next steps, which will be a technical briefing, and then [the local attendees] can proceed on to creating a local action team,” said Tregillus.
Local action teams are at the heart of the program. They are grassroots participants who identify gaps in care and develop solutions to problems occurring in their area. They bring community partners together to share information to make necessary local, regional and provincial changes.
“Anyone who interacts with children, youth and their families should be in the room. That can be local government First Nations leaders, community agencies, schools, school boards, Northern Health, MCFD, RCMP, etc…,” said the project lead.
The action teams then take their findings to provincial working groups set up by SharedCare, who have the ability to effect change at multiple levels of government and influence.
Some of the initial results that have formed out of the local action teams and provincial working groups have been creating service inventories, including websites to navigate local CYMHSU supports and services, increasing the number of school counsellors, providing family doctors for ‘unattached’ youth and children in crisis and providing a single place to access services and support for youth aged 16-25 transitioning to the adult system.
Tregillus and the collaborative have already begun talks in various locations across the north, from Masset and Prince Rupert, to Prince George, Kitimat, Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, Quesnel and Valemount.
“We’re finding that the situations that people are describing in the north are very compelling and need some support and I think this is a great way of adding value and support to local people trying to create solutions,” said the director.
Interested attendees for the Sept. 15 meeting can RSVP to Northern Health’s Nancy Smith at 250-622-6350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.