Watching a young person struggle with mental health or addictions challenges is a parent’s worst nightmare. We all want to see our children thrive. And yet when they need help, families in crisis have had to struggle to navigate a fragmented system that doesn’t get their kids the care they need. There are waitlists to navigate, expensive bills to pay and doors that seemingly lead nowhere.
Mental health and addictions care has been ignored in B.C. for a long time — neglected, overlooked and under-funded. Our government is working to turn that around and transform how people get care, moving from a crisis-driven system to one centred on early intervention and prevention.
Earlier this summer, we launched A Pathway to Hope, a roadmap to improving mental health and addiction care in B.C. Simply put, we’re making it easier for people to get the help they need. We’re improving care for everyone, but we’re beginning with improving mental health and wellness for children, youth and young adults. Our plan is to reach them early wherever they feel most comfortable — in their homes, schools and communities.
As the school year began, we announced $8.87 million in grant funding for schools around the province to help improve mental health for students and their families. Schools can use this funding for student workshops, staff training and parent information nights, or for new resource materials for educators and families.
We have launched new integrated child and youth mental-health teams in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and Comox Valley school districts, with three more school districts to be announced next year. These teams are going to connect students to the right care early on and streamline services so young people and families don’t have to tell their stories over and over again.
We’re opening eleven more Foundry centres — one-stop-shops for youth to access care and early interventions — for a total of 19 Foundry centres in communities throughout B.C.
And for young people with severe mental-health challenges, we are significantly expanding services, including two intensive day programs and 20 new family care spaces as an alternative to hospitalization.
We have announced a dramatic expansion of access to mental health and addiction counselling — investing $10 million in low cost or no-cost counselling in communities across B.C. We did this because access to care should not depend on the size of your bank account. But it has. And that’s about to change.
Central to all of this work is a deep commitment to work in partnership to support mental health and wellness in Indigenous communities. This includes investing in First Nations treatment centres, Indigenous land-based cultural and healing programs, and First Nations-led primary health care initiatives. It also means embedding cultural awareness and humility and integrating Indigenous perspectives across our system of care.
We’re also expanding our campaign to tackle stigma around mental health and substance use to reach people whose first language is not English. Building on the success of our anti-stigma campaign with the BC Lions, Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Warriors, we have just launched our Courageous Conversations campaign in Punjabi, traditional and simplified Chinese that were developed in partnership with South Asian and Chinese health-care professionals and advocates. The goal of this campaign is to encourage families to have courageous conversations to break down the shame and blame and make it easier for people to access supports and advice in their own language.
The overdose crisis has shone a bright light on the gaps in our system, gaps that often seem more like chasms. We have already taken urgent action across many fronts, but now it’s time for deeper, longer-term change — to build a system of care that works for everyone. We’ve heard loud and clear from people from all walks of life that there is no one pathway to hope. There are many.
Transformation like this doesn’t happen overnight. These are big problems that were not only neglected by the former provincial government, but exacerbated by underfunding our school system, freezing income supports, allowing housing prices to skyrocket and leaving B.C. with the highest child poverty rates in the country.
Added to these is a systemic failure to address the colonial legacy of intergenerational trauma. That’s resulted in Indigenous peoples being disproportionately affected by mental health and addiction challenges.
We know it will take time to transform the system of mental health and addictions care. But by focusing on our most urgent priorities first, we’re helping people who need it now. And by investing in early intervention and prevention we are making sure that children, young people and their families get connected to care early on — because they are worth it. They are our children and our future.