New mental-health, addictions care expands for young people in Vancouver

Press Release

March 8, 2024

VANCOUVER – Young people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver and struggling with mental-health and addictions challenges will get better access to care and supports to help them find a pathway to recovery and a better life.

As part of one of the largest expansions in youth mental-health and addictions supports, 28 new youth community care beds will be a part of a new program at Covenant House Vancouver to help young, unhoused people from 16 to 24.

“At-risk children and young people who face mental-health and substance-use challenges need a safe and supportive place to live that connects them with the care they need to start their healing journey,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The new Sanctuary program at Covenant House Vancouver will ensure that more young people have a safe place to shelter, stabilize and get the treatment they need in order to pave a better path for their life.”

These community support beds are low-barrier beds for high-risk young people, including those who are street-entrenched, providing wraparound care for young people who have significant substance-use challenges and undiagnosed or untreated mental-health issues.

“The Covenant House Vancouver team is dedicated to serving youth in our community with relentless support, unconditional love and utmost respect,” said Deb Lester, executive director, Covenant House Vancouver. “The opening of the Sanctuary program will offer young people the support they need to meet them where they are in their journey toward health and wellness.”

The new Sanctuary program will open in June 2024 and will be the lowest-barrier program of care offered by Covenant House Vancouver, helping fill the gap of supports needed specifically for unhoused young people. The purpose of the program is to give young people, who present with significant substance-use and mental-health concerns, the opportunity to stabilize and identify the recovery pathway that will work for them. This may include more comprehensive mental-health and addictions care, as well as stable housing and social supports.

The 2023 provincewide Point in Time Homeless Counts showed 8% of those recorded were under age 25. It also found that almost half of more than 4,800 counted first experienced homelessness as a youth.

“Safety, shelter and wraparound supports are essential for youth seeking healing and recovery,” said Grace Lore, Minister of Children and Family Development. “The new Sanctuary program by Covenant House Vancouver will change and save lives for youth with low-barrier access to service, health care, counselling, peer support and connection to other community supports.”

In addition to the 28 new beds, 33 new full-time employees, such as youth workers, peer support workers, a social worker and a counsellor, will be hired to support the program. Youth can self-refer or be referred by a service provider. Five beds will be reserved for emergency-room referrals.

Young people in the Sanctuary program can also benefit from other resources at Covenant House Vancouver, such as:

  • stable housing with wraparound supports;
  • in-house counselling with sessions available as needed;
  • addictions treatment supports tailored for youth;
  • primary care health services on site through a partnership with Foundry;
  • Peer and clinical support, as well as other life-saving assistance;
  • meals seven days a week;
  • access to computers;
  • connections to long-term care and support programs;
  • direct connections to income assistance, as well as the YMCA Career Zone to help young people on their path to receiving supports and
  • supporting themselves; and
  • access to amenities, such as the gymnasium, music room and wellness room.

The Province is investing approximately $5 million over the next two years to operate the Sanctuary program.

This expansion of community support beds for youth is part of the Province’s work to improve mental-health and addictions care for children and youth and is supported by the Budget 2023 investment of $236 million over three years in new and expanded addictions care for youth and young adults.

Quotes:

Dr. Mike Norbury, senior medical director, Vancouver Community, Vancouver Coastal Health –

“Vancouver Coastal Health is very pleased to partner with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Covenant House Vancouver on this new and innovative program for young people in our region. The Sanctuary program will ensure we’re providing our clients with essential supports and access to services so they can successfully meet their immediate health-care needs and long-term care goals.”

Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing –

“The B.C. government takes a housing-first approach so that people facing homelessness have a better chance of moving forward with their lives. Once housed, youth will get the support services they need through Covenant House Vancouver so they can focus on their mental and physical health, education, employment and community connections that they need to thrive.”

Brenda Bailey, MLA for Vancouver False-Creek –

“It is heartbreaking to see young people living on the streets, feeling hopeless about the future. The degree of risk these youth are exposed to is unacceptable. The Sanctuary program will provide accessible supports and a safe space to stay, so street-involved youth can start their journey to healing in a way that works for them.”

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2017, the Province has opened 599 publicly funded substance-use beds, including 72 youth substance-use beds, helping fill a long-standing gap in youth bed-based treatment services. The 28-bed Sanctuary program at Covenant House Vancouver, opening in June 2024, will add to this total, with many more to come.
  • In 2022, government announced a historic expansion of youth addiction services in every health authority, including new and expanded programs across health authorities.

Learn More:

Learn about mental-health and addictions supports in B.C.: https://helpstartshere.gov.bc.ca/

Learn more about Covenant House and its programs here: https://www.covenanthousebc.org/

A backgrounder follows.

Contact:

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions
Media Relations
778 584-1255

BACKGROUNDER

The well-being of young people in British Columbia is a top priority of government.

The Province has invested significantly in improving mental-health and addictions services for young people throughout the province since 2017, with a focus on early intervention and prevention services, crisis supports and treatment and recovery.

Early intervention and prevention:

Foundry centres:

Foundry is a provincewide network of integrated youth centres and virtual supports, offering free and confidential counselling, primary-care, sexual-health and substance-use services to young people from 12 to 24 and their families.

There are 16 Foundry centres open throughout the province in Vancouver-Granville, North Shore (North Vancouver), Campbell River, Ridge Meadows, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Prince George, Victoria, Penticton, Terrace, Comox Valley, Langley, Richmond, Cariboo-Chilcotin (Williams Lake), Sea to Sky (Squamish) and Port Hardy.

An additional 19 Foundry centres are in development in Burns Lake, East Kootenay (Cranbrook), Surrey, Fort St. John, Sunshine Coast, Tri-Cities, Kamloops, Vernon, Powell River (qathet), Burnaby, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Quesnel, Sooke-Westshore, South Surrey, Vancouver, Vanderhoof and West Kootenay.

In 2022-23, 17,567 young people accessed Foundry services. This included:

  • 14,987 young people accessing in-person services at Foundry centres; and
  • 2,580 young people accessing Foundry virtual services.

Integrated child and youth teams:

Integrated Child and Youth (ICY) Teams help to fill gaps in mental-health and substance-use care, bringing together multidisciplinary teams and removing roadblocks to deliver better care. On the ground, these teams help families navigate services and provide mental-health and substance-use supports for children and youth.

The Province committed $55 million to implement teams in 20 school districts by 2024, to be fully operational by 2025.

ICY Teams are operating in these school districts: Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows; Comox Valley; Richmond; Coast Mountains (Terrace and Hazelton); and Okanagan-Similkameen (Oliver, Keremeos). Seven more school district communities have ICY Teams in development: Mission; Fraser-Cascade (Hope, Agassiz-Harrison); Kootenay-Columbia (Castlegar-Trail); Nanaimo-Ladysmith; Okanagan-Shuswap (Salmon Arm); Pacific Rim (Port Alberni); and qathet (Powell River).

Eight new communities are expected to receive ICY Teams, with an announcement expected in spring 2024. This will bring the total to 20 school districts with ICY Teams that will be operational by 2025.

Y Mind and Mind Medicine:

This is a free seven-week early intervention program for young people from 13 to 30 experiencing mild to moderate anxiety. Programs are offered in-person and virtually and are grounded in mindfulness, and acceptance and commitment therapy to teach participants skills to effectively cope with their anxiety symptoms. The program has also been adapted for Indigenous communities as the Mind Medicine program.

Confident Parents: Thriving Kids:

Skill-building programs that support parents with children from 3 to 12 experiencing behavioural or anxiety challenges offered through the Canadian Mental Health Association – B.C. Division.

We Are Indigenous: Big Worries/Fears Parent/Caregiver Support Program:

Building off the evidence-base and success of Confident Parents Thriving Kids Anxiety Program, the development of the Big Worries/Fears program was guided, created and developed through Indigenous perspectives for Indigenous families.

EASE – Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators:

EASE is an online course for educators that helps bring mental-health support and resources right into the classroom for K-12 students. It includes strategies for effective everyday anxiety management skills.
Developed by Ministry of Children and Family Development, in partnership with Ministry of Education and Child Care and Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, EASE at Home is provided to educators, parents and caregivers to support children and teens in understanding and managing anxiety.

Treatment and recovery:

Bed-based care:

The Province has committed to doubling the number of youth treatment and recovery beds to increase their availability in all parts of British Columbia. As of March 2024, 72 new publicly funded youth treatment beds have opened, and it is anticipated that the additional new 28 bed Sanctuary program at Covenant House will open in June 2024.

There are 170 publicly funded youth substance-use beds throughout the province.

Addictions care:

Bed-based treatment represents only one part of a much broader spectrum of treatment options for people living with addictions. Beds are typically most appropriate for people who require a higher intensity of services and supports to address complex or acute mental-health or substance-use problems.

Children and youth can benefit from outpatient treatment services, such as:

  • transition services;
  • concurrent disorders services;
  • case management services;
  • outreach programs;
  • community counselling;
  • day treatment;
  • harm-reduction supports;
  • crisis intervention services; and
  • medication-assisted treatment.

Urgent and Primary Care Centres (UPCC) and Primary Care Networks (PCNs):

Mental-health and addiction support for young people can also be found at urgent and primary care centres in 32 locations in B.C. where clinicians are available 365 days a year for same-day access.

Support for youth is also available through community-based primary-care networks, which build a team of professionals around patients and their needs. The networks also improve access to early interventions for people experiencing mild to moderate mental-health and addictions challenges and to more specialized supports when needed.

Early psychosis intervention:

In 2021, the Province invested $75 million over three years for early psychosis intervention, which expands existing specialized programs, increases access to treatment and helps young people and their families thrive.

This investment expands these specialized programs throughout all regional health authorities. Care providers may include psychiatrists, nurses, case managers and peer support workers.

Child and youth mental-health (CYMH) intake clinics:

There are 93 CYMH intake clinics across the province. CYMH clinicians provide initial assessments and ensure children and youth are connected to the right supports. CYMH teams can provide support through individual or group treatment, family therapy interventions and in-home support.

Crisis supports:

Here2Talk:

A 24/7 counselling and referral line connecting post-secondary students to services when they need it.

KUU-US crisis line:

An Indigenous specific crisis line available 24/7.

The Kids Help Phone:
24/7, immediate counselling, support, information, and referrals.

Contact:

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions
Media Relations
778 584-1255

IHT6

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