The B.C. government has committed $140 million in its pre-election budget to increase mental health services for young people, to deal with an increase in cases.
The three-year budget is to hire 120 mental health practitioners to work with young people, create “up to 28” specialized substance-use care beds for young people and provide an online counselling service for “youth who are struggling with mild to moderate mental health or substance abuse challenges,” according to a statement from the health and children and family development ministries.
The plan also promises to expand the youth mental health service centre called the Foundry, announced for Kelowna in December by Premier Christy Clark, to other communities.
Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the increase of children and youth with mental health issues is “a troubling phenomenon,” and she doesn’t know if the caseload will continue to rise.
“We’re currently averaging service to about 27,000 kids per year,” Cadieux said. “This investment will add another 7,000.”
The plan includes using up to 10 per cent of the $100 million interim staffing settlement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to deal with mental health issues in schools, hiring educational psychologists, school counsellors and other staff.
Education Minister Mike Bernier said Monday negotiations are continuing with the BCTF to satisfy the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to restore class size and special needs support levels removed from their contract in 2001.
Three facilities are to open this year, Ashnola at the Crossing in Keremeos, a 10-bed child and adolescent psychiatric stabilization unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital and a 10-bed in-patient unit at the HOpe Centre in North Vancouver.
Cadieux said there is no simple wait time for mental health patients, but service has improved since the intake system has been improved at the 90 miniistry offices.
“When they come to an MCFD office for service, they can be seen in hours, instead of what used to take weeks or even months, and then they know right away whether or not they are eligible for services,” Cadieux said.