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New approach to mental health, substance issues to benefit SD71 students

Sep 12, 2019 | Education, News

By George Le Masurier

Comox Valley students with mental health or substance use issues will have a new and more easily accessible pathway for help starting sometime in December.

The province has chosen School District 71 as the second of five districts to pilot a project linking health care and school resources to create a “one-care-plan” approach that will provide help when and where students need it.

BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy made the announcement at GP Vanier High School today. The province has allocated $22.1 million over three years to implement the project in five districts. Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows was the first.

Tom Demeo, Superintendent of Schools, Comox Valley School District praised the new concept.

“We are extremely fortunate to be part of this great initiative,” he said. “Student mental health is one of our district’s strategic focuses and through this partnership, we will be able to work collaboratively with our community partners to provide our students with resources that will strengthen and improve their mental health.”

In making the announcement, Darcy said estimated 84,000 BC children aged four to 17 years experience mental health disorders at any given time. From 2009 to 2017, there was an 86 percent increase in hospitalizations in B.C. for mental health issues among youth under 25 years of age.

She said promoting wellness, preventing mental health and addictions challenges, and intervening early in life can reduce problems as people grow and develop. She estimated that 70 percent of mental health and substance use problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.

Ronna-Rae Leonard, Courtenay-Comox MLA, welcomed the news.

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in enrolment over the past few years so added supports – especially in the areas of mental health and overall wellness for students – could not have come at a better time,” she said.

According to a ministry press release “integrated teams will work closely with school and team-based primary care and specialized services providers to offer wraparound care to children, youth and their families.

This means individuals experiencing mental health and substance use challenges and their families will no longer need to retell their stories to different care providers or search on their own for the supports they need.”

“For far too long, families have had to knock on door after door to get the help they need for their children,” Darcy said. “These integrated child and youth teams will make it so much easier to connect young people to the help they need, where and when they need it.”

Darcy and Leonard were in the Comox Valley today for the announcement.


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