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RCYBC: Youth Substance Use Services in B.C. – An Update

Press  Release

MARCH 24, 2020

This report provides an update to RCY’s 2016 inventory of youth substance use services in British Columbia. This new baseline of substance use services for youth will allow the Representative to measure and publicly report on progress made by the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the Ministry of Health and health authorities to improve access to and information about youth substance use services in B.C.

Background

Problematic substance use among youth in British Columbia is not a new issue and a continued lack of accessible and appropriate services is a growing concern.

The service landscape is sparse and incredibly difficult to navigate, leaving many youth and their families in crisis wondering what their options are. The Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) has been monitoring youth substance use service access for several years, calling on the provincial government to do more to support young people who are looking for help.

In 2016, RCY released the report A Review of Youth Substance Use Services in B.C. which provided an overview of the types of substance use services available to youth and highlighted the many gaps in service across the province.

Later that same year, RCY released the investigation report Last Resort: One family’s tragic struggle to find help for their son, which detailed the events leading to the apparent suicide of a teenager who had been struggling with problematic substance use and with finding appropriate help.

In 2018, RCY released Time to Listen: Youth Voices on Substance Use, sharing the voices of youth who have lived experience with substance use and reviewing substance-related critical injury and death data.

All three reports recommended the development and funding of a comprehensive system of substance use services capable of consistently meeting the needs of youth. The reports also highlighted the need for more youth-friendly substance use services and supports in B.C., particularly those that engage youth in planning and meet them where they are.

In keeping with a recommendation from the 2016 RCY report A Review of Youth Substance Services in B.C. that government establish a single point of leadership and accountability for mental health and substance use services, the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA) was established in 2017.

In response to the ongoing overdose crises, and to improve the access and quality of mental health and addictions services, the B.C. government released its 10-year vision, with an initial three-year action plan, in June 2019, A Pathway to Hope: A roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia. While this strategy is high-level and not entirely youth-specific, there are several proposed actions that relate directly to the provision of services for youth.

The following report provides an update to RCY’s 2016 inventory of youth substance use services, sharing the perspectives of service providers, highlighting service gaps and proposing opportunities for future research (see Limitations, below). This new baseline of substance use services for youth will allow the Representative to measure and publicly report on progress made by MMHA, the Ministry of Health (HLTH) and health authorities to improve access to and information about youth substance use services in B.C.

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