The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district has been selected to pilot a new integrated child and youth team to support the mental health of students.
School District 42 was selected to launch the new team because of its measures already in place to help students including: a district-wide social and emotional learning framework; teaching mental health literacy at the high school level; establishing a program with a wellness and therapeutic skills focus; and working with community partners to support vulnerable youth.
It is not known what the team will look like yet, but Shannon Derinzy, assistant superintendent with SD42, said the district will be looking at where the gaps are, what they believe will be helpful to close those gaps and what are the unique needs of students.
“It is that idea of a one-stop-shop. For students, we have a single place that they can go to get the supports that they need,” said Derinzy.
She added that the school district will build connections with the Foundry so the process of accessing resources is “seamless for the students.”
Ridge Meadows Foundry is part of a provincewide network of integrated health and social services. Foundry helps youth between the ages of 12 and 24 where they can access mental health care, substance use services, primary care, social services and youth and family peer supports all in one place.
Services will temporarily be offered at the Golden Ears Medical Clinic during renovations, but the new office is expected to be open by November in the former Frogstone Grill restaurant location along Lougheed Highway at 229th Street.
Vicki Kipps, executive director of at Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Community Services says the school district and Foundry have been close partners.
She says they will be exploring having school-based programs at the Foundry site and maybe sharing staff resources.
“Everything we can do to reduce the barriers of access for the young people,” said Kipps.
The new team will make it easier in terms of having additional staff resources to promote the services of Foundry, Kipps added.
“And the whole idea of those professionals who are now working more closely together is to prevent anybody from falling through the cracks,” said Kipps.
The announcement was made Monday at Kanaka Creek elementary by Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy, MLAs Bob D’Eith and Lisa Beare, school district chairperson Korleen Carreras and Sherri Skerratt, district principal for Safe and Caring Schools.
In all, five integrated teams are being set up in B.C. school districts to give students easier access to mental health supports.
The teams are to link health care and school resources to young people and family members, so they can get treatment “without having to tell their story over and over,” Minister Darcy said Monday.
The school district program is to be developed over the next two years, and the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows pilot is to be in operation by December.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district will be the first pilot of the project, to deal with a sharp rise in identified mental health and addiction issues among children.
The province estimates there are currently 84,000 children aged four to 17 experiencing mental health disorders, and B.C. has seen an 86 per cent increase in hospitalizations of people under 25 for mental disorders between 2009 and 2017.
School districts are also beginning to teach mental health literacy in secondary schools, to help young people recognize issues before they become critical. The district teams will be involved in education as well as case work, and school districts have budgeted for extra training for teachers and counsellors.
“We know that resolving small issues before they become big ones helps to avoid needless suffering, and also costlier solutions down the road, Darcy said. “We also know that addressing trauma early on can make a life-long difference.”
The province is also expanding its Foundry youth centre network, which Darcy said is a “one-stop shop” for youth health resources. New Foundry centres are being established in Terrace, Richmond and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, in addition to facilities in Kelowna, Campbell River, Prince George, Abbotsford, Penticton, Victoria and Vancouver.