Integrated, expanded mental health and substance use services for children and youth

CHILDREN, youth and their families will benefit from integrated and expanded mental health and substance use services in communities throughout British Columbia with over $56 million invested in new supports, as part of Budget 2021.

“So families don’t lose critical time when mental health and addictions treatment help is urgently needed, we’re adding new teams so young people receive seamless service at school, at home and for life,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, on Monday.

The integrated child and youth teams deliver wraparound supports for children, youth and their families by identifying early when a young person needs support and connecting them to specific mental health and substance use services. This model of care is meant to reduce wait times, improve health outcomes and increase engagement at school.

The multidisciplinary teams work collaboratively with young people and their families to develop and deliver a single care plan with wraparound supports. They also link young people to other services in the community such as early years services, primary care and specialized programs.

By linking together existing services in new ways and investing in new services and clinicians, the government says it is creating a seamless system of care from mental wellness promotion to highly specialized services. Children, youth and their families will have access to culturally safe and effective care when they need it.

Integrated child and youth teams include peer support workers, Indigenous support workers, education counsellors, and mental health and substance use clinicians. Teams will co-ordinate services and provide seamless care for children, youth and families in the community, where it is safe and comfortable for the young person.

Fifteen communities will receive enhanced services that will add capacity on the ground where it is needed most. Over $40 million and approximately 350 new full-time workers will help support B.C.’s young people, and their families, to access services early on so they will be less likely to need services down the road.

“We know many young British Columbians are experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need to prioritize the health and well-being of our children and youth in B.C.,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “This investment will improve access to vital services for students and families across the province and support early intervention and lifelong mental wellness.”

An additional investment of $16 million will also expand and enhance the early years mental health supports. This expansion will include hiring more than 60 new full-time family support workers, behavioural consultants and infant mental health clinicians over the next three years to help meet children’s mental health and developmental needs and set them on the path to success.

“Children and youth need a more seamless care experience, particularly when they are dealing with anxiety, pain or trauma,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “Integrated services mean children and youth who need help won’t have to repeat their story and potentially relive trauma with multiple service providers; instead, they will have an individual care plan focused on their unique needs and a team behind them to help ensure they are supported to reach their full potential.”

Social and emotional well-being matters, and early years services can prevent or minimize future mental health and substance use challenges in a young person’s life.

The government is working across ministries, with Indigenous partners and community agencies to build a culturally safe system of care that benefits young people and their families in communities throughout British Columbia. These programs, which are complemented by partnerships between the ministries of Education, Children and Family Development, and Mental Health and Addictions, will help build capacity in communities and place mental health and wellness front and centre for students, parents and educators.

This investment is part of the overall $97 million announced in Budget 2021 for child and youth mental health and substance use supports to further advance the B.C. government’s plan, A Pathway to Hope.