The Greg Moore Youth Centre in downtown Maple Ridge now offers a child and youth psychiatrist one day a week.
The doctor is in on Saturdays in an office at the centre, at a cost of $42,000 a year.
Dr. Matt Chow started seeing kids between eight and 24 years old in May and so far about 60 have visited the office.
The goal now is to keep raising money, to allow expansion of the service, so that psychiatrist is in town three or four days a week and can be available for referrals from school counsellors.
Treena Innes, with the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice, a group of local family doctors, is leading the fundraising efforts.
“It takes everybody to contribute,” said Innes.
She’d liked to see a model that one day can be self sustaining, and allow youth psychiatric services to be offered on a permanent basis.
So far, based on the issues that kids are bringing to the doctor, “anxiety has been the top concern,” said Innes.
Fundraising started earlier this year by the local action team that’s part of the province-wide Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative. The team was helped out by a one-time $10,000 contribution from the City of Maple Ridge.
“We know that depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and substance abuse rates are on the rise,” the division said in a letter earlier this year to Maple Ridge council. Without help, “mental health and substance use challenges will get worse.”
Maple Ridge psychiatrist Dr. Biju Mathew, who’s on the action team, said it’s difficult to raise money for mental health issues.
It’s not that hard getting money to fund cancer, lungs or heart research, but people are more reluctant to give their dollars to mental health, he added.
Biju said to run a full service, providing a child psychiatrist on a full-time basis in Maple Ridge, will cost more than $200,000 a year.
While MSP covers the psychiatrist’s fees, money is needed to pay for overhead and for a child advocate to connect kids to other programs, counselling and types of care.
“Historically, we don’t have a child psychiatrist working in our community,” Mathew said.
Previously, it took a year’s wait to see a psychiatrist. And during that time, symptoms of depression or anxiety can get worse.
Now, kids can get in to see Chow within a month, said Innes.
“Matt Chow is very innovative and creative.”
Patients can also follow up through Skype visits.
Innes said a drop-in medical clinic soon may also be offered out of the same space once a week or so, on the same night as a sexual health clinic is being offered.
While the clinic is comfortably housed in the youth centre, it could be relocated to the new Civic and Cultural Facility, which the city is proposing to build next to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.
Members of Maple Ridge council pressed provincial politicians for funding that at this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria.