Population growth on West Shore strains wait lists for family services

Population growth on West Shore strains wait lists for family services

Funding not keeping pace with demand at Pacific Family Services Association

Rick Stiebel

News Staff

The population boom on the West Shore is significantly impacting the time it takes to reach youth and families searching for support, said Jennifer Munro, clinical director for Pacific Centre Family Services Association.

“We’ve always had waiting lists, but they are increasing faster than we can handle. They’ve increased dramatically, even in the past six months,” Munro said. “It’s critical at this time.”

A staff of 30 at PCFSA, which includes 25 counsellors, provide support, services and programs with a trauma-informed focus for individuals, youth, couples and families dealing with a wide range of issues. “That includes increased effort to support Indigenous people in our community,” Munro noted.

“Wait times for many programs are from six to seven months, significantly higher than just two years ago,” she said. “From 2017 into 2018 is where we really saw the wait times increase. The rapid increase in population on the West Shore is definitely a major factor.”

PCFSA deals with about 1,500 people a year, with close to half involving support for youth and families.

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The complexity of issues that are dealt with now compared to the past is another contributing factor, she added.

While funding for PCFSA comes from many sources, including municipalities and corporate donations, the majority comes from the provincial government through the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General.

Funding is significantly impacted by the increase in population, noted Munro and Mia Golden, co-ordinator of Crime Reduction and Exploitation Diversion for PCFSA. “Funding isn’t keeping pace with the explosive growth on the West Shore to meet the needs of the families and youth that we assist.”

Youth Talk, an innovative program which has provided online counselling for youth across Canada for the past five years, is a casualty of funding cuts, Golden said. “It helped kids from across the country who, for a variety of reasons, were not willing to access face-to-face counselling. We never envisioned that kind of demand locally and nationally from youth dealing with very serious issues, including suicide and sexual abuse.”

For more information on the PCFSA and programs provided, visit pacificcentrefamilyservices.org.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com