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British Columbia

Seven more BC school districts get mental health, substance use teams

The teams provide counseling, peer and cultural support in schools, at home and in the community

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BC is increasing support for children, youth and their families struggling with mental health issues and substance use.

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Seven other school districts in the province will have integrated child and youth teams. They will serve the Fraser-Cascade (Hope, Harrison and Agassiz), Kootenay-Columbia (Trail), Mission, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Okanagan-Shuswap (Salmon Arm), Pacific Rim (Port Alberni) and Powell River school districts.

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“Integrated child and youth teams make it easier for young people and their families to access the care they need, where and when they need it,” Jennifer Whiteside, Secretary of State for Mental Health and Addiction, said in a press release on Thursday .

Whiteside said the teams will “fill gaps and better coordinate mental health, wellbeing and drug use treatment in schools and in the community.”

The teams provide counseling, peer and cultural support in schools, at home and in the community. These include clinical counselors, youth drug use and mental health clinicians, Indigenous elders, and staff who support Indigenous children and youth.

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The multidisciplinary teams provide assessment and screening, counseling and therapy services to children up to age 19 and their families.

Teams are already providing support in Richmond, Coast Mountains (Terrace and Hazelton), Okanagan-Similkameen (Oliver area), Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and the Comox Valley. The BC government plans to offer the service in 20 school districts by 2025.

The service is available to children, youth and families in each district, whether they attend public schools, First Nations-operated schools, independent, French-language or alternative schools, or do not attend school.

The expansion of the teams is part of the Pathway to Hope initiative of the BC Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

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A few quick facts from the Ministry:

• About 75 percent of serious mental health problems occur before the age of 25.

• The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected children and young people, especially those who were already struggling.

• About 12.7 percent of children between the ages of four and 18 are affected by mental disorders; 44.2 percent of them receive services.

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