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BC hiring more support workers to help young people with substance use and mental health issues

Questions on timeline and facility locations remain

By Brishti Basu
December 1, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC hiring more support workers to help young people with substance use and mental health issues

Questions on timeline and facility locations remain

By Brishti Basu
Dec 1, 2022
Sheila Malcolmson makes an announcement at the Esquimalt Health Unit. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily
Sheila Malcolmson makes an announcement at the Esquimalt Health Unit. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC hiring more support workers to help young people with substance use and mental health issues

Questions on timeline and facility locations remain

By Brishti Basu
December 1, 2022
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BC hiring more support workers to help young people with substance use and mental health issues
Sheila Malcolmson makes an announcement at the Esquimalt Health Unit. Photo: Brishti Basu / Capital Daily

The province is hiring healthcare workers and support staff across BC to expand substance use services for young people.

Mental health and addiction minister Sheila Malcolmson made the announcement on Thursday at the Esquimalt Health Unit, alongside MLA Mitzi Dean.

“We are funding a historic expansion of youth addiction services in every corner of the province to help young people and their families and to make sure that no one falls through the cracks,” Malcolmson said. “This means more than 130 new healthcare workers to support 33 new or expanded youth substance use programs for young people in every health authority. There has never been such an expansion at any point in time and it's going to save lives.”

These programs—called Y-STAR teams in the Island Health region—offer both outreach and in-house mental health and substance use services. However Malcolmson did not specify which facilities they would operate out of, when asked by Capital Daily.

Nurses, social workers, therapists, harm reduction workers, and Indigenous patient navigators are among the professionals being hired to run these teams. According to Malcolmson, the ministry is hiring 27 full-time equivalent employees to expand Y-STAR teams in the Island Health region.

Tenille Lindsay, an Island Health clinical coordinator, said Y-STAR teams operate seven days a week and field calls from local emergency departments, community service providers, schools, and Indigenous groups.

“If a youth has come to the emergency department for mental health concerns, substance use or suspected overdose, and has been discharged or admitted to the hospital, we are able to follow up the same day, the next day or [in] the next couple of days,” Lindsay said. “Y-STAR is able to respond quickly and go where the youth are at. They don't need to come to us; we go to them.”

The teams on the Island—in Victoria, Cowichan Valley, Campbell River Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Mount Waddington—have been operating for a few months to a year, and will soon be adding new members as a result of this provincial expansion.

In bigger communities, like Victoria and Nanaimo, Lindsay said these teams will be focusing on young patients brought into emergency departments, while smaller communities with fewer resources will respond to substance users in schools.

“For example, in Cowichan Valley, I got to meet to practitioners that work after usual health centre hours, and do outreach in a way that really reaches young people that have become— because of racism particularly in our healthcare system—alienated from care and are unlikely to go to a traditional healthcare center or hospital,” Malcolmson added.

The province did not provide a timeline for when they expect to have all 33 teams across BC fully staffed.

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