Amy Schactman, clinical co-ordinator at Foundry, joins operations manager Jordan Trousdell as they tour Finance Minister Carole James and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy through Foundry Victoria, a health and social services centre supporting youth. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Centre for youth seeking mental health and addictions support opens in Victoria

Foundry Centre joins six other B.C. locations, to provide one-stop shop for wellness needs

A new hub broadening both health and social services in Victoria aims to provide supports for youth and their families, with a focus on mental health and wellness.

In an announcement Tuesday, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy joined Finance Minister Carole James in cutting the ribbon on Foundry Victoria, in its brand new location at 818 Douglas St.

“We know we need to build a seamless system of supports … where you ask once and you get help fast,” said Darcy, who noted the needs of youth often intersect in a system not designed for that. “[Foundry] overcomes those silos, and brings the care together.”

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy, chats with social worker and counsellor Lorna Mace, about her role at Foundry Victoria. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Counsellors are available on a walk-in basis to address issues ranging from anxiety and depression, to issues surrounding body image, substance use challenges and pregnancy and STI testing and support. Working in close partnership with local First Nations, culturally appropriate and safe programs are also included.

Peer support is available, an important and often overlooked element to care, said Cecily Killam, who described her experience seeking help dealing with mental health and substance use challenges, and homelessness as a sequence of “navigating barriers.”

“As a youth, accessing health care services relating to three of the most alienating and adverse experiences a human being can go through … can be intimidating and anxiety-provoking,” she said.

Roughly 70 per cent of mental health issues emerge before the age of 25, Darcy said. In B.C., there are an estimated 84,000 people between the ages of four and 17 living with these challenges, yet only one in three will receive support.

There are too many children in Victoria struggling to get help, the minister added, calling the system disconnected and unco-ordinated with “huge gaps.”

For a province living through the worst public health emergency in decades (the opioid epidemic), Darcy said an initiative like this “has never been more important than it is today.”

Foundry Victoria, at 818 Douglas St. is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

The government has provided $200,000 to establish Foundry centres in B.C. and in Victoria. An additional $3 million was received from the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island and $790,000 came from Island Health.

James said during her time as an MLA she’s spoken with many youth and their parents who have struggled with a fragmented system. She recounted her firsthand experience navigating the system with her son Evan, a recovering alcoholic.

“I know how important it is to have those supports in place to be able to ask for that help and get that help quickly,” she said.

The goal is not to tweak the way care is provided, but to transform it, said Dr. Steve Mathias, executive director of Foundry.

“If we believe in our kids the way we say we do, we need to really put the bar at a place that makes us all want to achieve what we’re trying to achieve, and that is amazing care when they need it, support for families and kids when they come through the door,” he added.

Foundry has been created with 120 partners across the province; the centre joins other Foundry locations in Campbell River, Kelowna, Prince George, and Vancouver. Another five are in the works in such centres as Abbotsford, Penticton, and Ridge Meadows.

Said Matthias, “This is a generational initiative … and we will continue to do the work.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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