(THE NEWS/Files)                                Dr. Matt Chow helps kids at the Youth Wellness Centre.

(THE NEWS/Files) Dr. Matt Chow helps kids at the Youth Wellness Centre.

Funding commitment for Maple Ridge youth wellness centre

Next step is fundraising for larger space, to help more kids.

The focus at the Youth Wellness Centre in the Greg Moore Youth Centre is finding kids help, however they need it, fast.

That focus will now expand as the centre adopts the Foundry program, a new provincewide approach to helping youth from age 12 to 24.

Instead of scrimping and scratching for money so it can offer youth one-stop help, becoming part of the Foundry program means regular Ministry of Health funding, about half a million dollars a year.

While the Youth Wellness Centre has been offering one-stop help to kids for a year, getting them initial help with mental illness issues and referrals, the Foundry does more of that, and better.

“There are going to be substantial changes to the program, but in a positive way. I think more kids are going to get seen,” said Dr. Matt Chow, a psychiatrist who sees kids twice a week at the centre.

Different agencies, government, donors, youth and families all try to offer mental health care, substance use services, social services and family support. It’s based on the principle that the earlier kids get help, the easier it is to get back on track with their personal lives, school or work.

“It’s basically going to bring the Foundry model and bring it to Maple Ridge.”

The goal of for each Foundry Centre is to see 2,500 kids per year, he points out.

“So that’s a pretty big increase in through-put.”

The Foundry program, which is expanding across B.C., will have more services than are currently available. Foundry centres are currently in Vancouver, Kelowna and Campbell River. Another just opened in North Vancouver, and ones are soon to follow in Abbotsford and Prince George.

Ron Antalek calls the Foundry program the “Starbucks of youth mental health.” Distinctive branding will make it recognizable across the B.C. so kids and young adults will know where to go to get help.

Antalek is on the fundraising committee for the Youth Wellness Centre and was part of the the initial pitch in June to bring the Foundry program to Maple Ridge. One of the conditions was to have a youth wellness centre already operating, which has been the case in Maple Ridge for the past year.

“The model that was the pre-requisite was to create the Youth Wellness Centre, to have it up and operating in Maple Ridge.”

It will take about 18 months to roll out the program and, in the meantime, the Youth Wellness Centre will continue to operate on part-time hours within the Greg Moore Youth Centre.

Fundraising for a larger space will be the next challenge for the Youth Wellness Centre committee.

“Our current wellness centre doesn’t meet the standards to be a Foundry,” Antalek said.

Chow notes that the preference is to have the program near where the myriad of youth programs are offered by the youth centre.

Cheryl Ashlie, who’s also on the Youth Wellness Centre committee, said it could mean raising up to $1 million for expanding the space to up 5,000 sq. ft.

“We’ve been given this great news and now we have to do this huge body of work.”

That will require talking to kids and agencies to find out the best place, she adds.

The City of Maple Ridge has provided the space for free for the initial Youth Wellness Centre two-year pilot program, said Tony Cotroneo, manager of community services.

“Anything to support youth mental health and youth wellness, that’s what we’re all about.”