Youth access to mental-health services expanding to 7 B.C. communities

B.C. is expanding its Integrated Child and Youth (ICY) teams into seven new communities to better support younger British Columbians dealing with mental health and addiction issues.

In an announcement Friday, the province said the new ICY teams will serve the Central Coast, Cowichan Valley, Delta, Gold Trail, Peace River South, Qualicum, and Surrey.

Minister of Mental Health Jennifer Whiteside says young people face more complex challenges and it’s important to connect them to the right resources.

“The new Integrated Child and Youth teams will provide coordinated access to mental health, wellness and addictions resources, ensuring children, youth and their families have seamless access to these critical services where and when they need them,” she said.

The province says ICY teams are a critical part of its work to improve access by providing connections to clinical counsellors, youth substance-use and mental-health clinicians, those supporting Indigenous children and youth, and family and youth peer-support workers.

B.C. estimates that 75 per cent of serious mental health issues start before the age of 25.

It says drug toxicity is currently the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 to 18, with suicide noted as the second.

David Mansoor, a peer-support worker in Richmond’s ICY team, says the teams create lunch-time drop-in support groups around the city to help youth, leading with a “mental-health-first framework.”

“All students are welcome, and we share food and drinks, play games, create art, and most importantly, build relationships,” he said.

He says ICY teams get to know the youth, who, in turn, get to know members as safe, caring adults.

The province says young people up to age 19 can connect with these teams for peer and cultural support and counselling.

Minister of Children and Family Development Grace Lore says the province is taking a holistic approach to give a seamless experience when young people ask for help.

Services are available for young people in the school district, attending First Nations-operated schools, independent schools, or those not in school.

“ICY teams serve to meet young people where they feel most comfortable, whether in schools or other community settings,” the province said.

B.C. has committed $101 million over three years to implement ICY in 20 school districts to start by 2025.

Right now, communities with ICY teams are supporting at least 1,420 young people per month, in eight communities, the province explains.

The B.C. government estimates ICY teams may serve as many as 5,700 children and youth per month once the program is fully operational in 20 communities.