7 B.C. school districts to add mental health support teams, bringing total to 12
British Columbia is expanding mental-health and substance-use services for children and youth by adding new multi-disciplinary teams to seven school districts.
The provincial mental health and addictions ministry announced plans to bolster its Integrated Child and Youth teams on Thursday, bringing the total number of participating school districts to 12. The teams support those aged 19 and under.
“From the toxic drug crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, there’s a lot going on for kids these days and we know that each new challenge increases the need for support,” Minister Jennifer Whiteside said at a news conference in Mission.
That city, along with Hope, Harrison, Agassiz, Trail, Mission, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Salmon Arm, Port Alberni and Power River will all benefit from the new teams.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement by the provincial government, B.C. already had five ICY teams in school districts covering Richmond, Terrace, Hazelton, Oliver and the Comox Valley.
ICY TEAM GOALS
According to the ministry, these teams may include clinical counsellors connected to schools, youth substance-use clinicians, child and youth mental-health clinicians and Indigenous elders.
“The approach of their work is to put the needs of each child at the centre and then to wrap the services around the child so that no one falls through the cracks,” Whiteside said.
“The point of these teams, really, is to meet kids where they’re at. Where they feel safe and comfortable in regular settings—whether it’s schools, or clinics, parks or homes.”
Bob D'Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission, says early interventions are essential to helping children and youth thrive.
"As a father of five and advocate for increased resources for schools, I welcome the ICY teams to our communities,” D’Eith said in a statement released following Thursday’s announcement.
A PATHWAY TO HOPE PROGRESS
The province launched a three-year action plan for improving mental health and addictions services, dubbed A Pathway to Hope, back in June 2019—with a key focus on early intervention.
B.C.’s 2021 budget included funding to expand ICY teams to a total of 20 school districts by the end of 2024. The government anticipated these seven new teams, plus the eight that have yet to be established, will be staffed by over 410 new full time employees.
Provincial data shows nearly 13 per cent of children between four and 18 years are affected by mental-health disorders, and just over 44 per cent of those receive services.
Data released by BC Coroners Service this week shows 65 children and youth have died from suspected illicit drug overdose between 2020-2022.
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