YOUTH who want to help other youth will be able to train for jobs in the health and social services sector as youth peer support workers, thanks to a new $16.2-million provincial grant, the Province announced on Monday.
The funding will expand innovative youth peer support services at Foundry centres throughout B.C. Foundry offers multiple integrated health and wellness services for young people between 12 and 24 years and their caregivers, including mental-health and substance-use support, physical and sexual health care, youth and family peer support services, as well as social services like employment assistance, education and facilitating connection to housing.
“Peer support workers understand first-hand what youth facing mental-health and addiction challenges face,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Peer workers will help youth overcome barriers to employment and turn lived experience into work experience.”
Youth peer support is one of the core services offered at Foundry. Peer support is based on the idea that those who have experienced adversity can draw from their own lived experiences to provide support, mentorship and encouragement to others facing similar situations.
“When young people make the courageous decision to reach out for help, we need services to meet them,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Peer support workers are a critical component of the services Foundry provides. This grant will help youth get the services they need and deserve, as we continue to open more Foundry centres across the province in the months to come.”
Peer support services are a vital and fast-emerging profession in youth-serving health and wellness institutions in B.C. and around the world. They meet the rising wellness needs of young people, in addition to increasing career entry points for youth facing multiple barriers to employment.
“Peer support workers allow for people to combine their own lived experience and training to help youths overcome barriers that they themselves overcame,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “This program helps meet not only the rising demand for youth wellness services, but also provides more opportunities for youth facing barriers to move into stable careers.”
The provincial grant is for three years and comes from the 2022-23 Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement. In addition to funding youth peer support workers, funding will also evaluate the effectiveness of youth peer support as a core service in primary health-care settings for young people.
Enhancing supports for youth living with mental-health and substance-use needs is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for building a comprehensive system of mental-health and addictions care for British Columbians.
Amanda Horne, youth peer support worker, Foundry Vancouver-Granville, noted: “As a former client, my youth peer supporter was instrumental in my mental-health journey. I know first-hand how important it is to be able to connect with someone who’s gone through something similar to what I went through, without feeling judged. I’m so grateful to see the expansion of youth peer support services across Foundry centres. The impact of this grant means more investment in youth peer support and inclusive employment opportunities to support young people in their health and wellness journey.”
Karen Tee, Associate Executive Director, Foundry, added: “There lies immeasurable value and hope in meeting someone who has been down a similar road as you, and understands first-hand, what it’s like living through mental-health or substance-use challenges. The youth peer support program allows those who have gone through adversities to turn around and light a candle for those who might be still finding their way on their wellness journey.”
Learn more about peer support training, curriculum and standards of practice B.C. has adopted: https://peerconnectbc.ca/
Foundry services can be accessed by walking into one of 14 (soon to be 23) Foundry community centres, connecting virtually through the Foundry BC app – co-created with youth, for youth – or by exploring online tools and resources at: https://foundrybc.ca/