The Representative for Children and Youth in British Columbia (RCYBC) has released a report that calls on the provincial government to address urgent youth needs for direct mental health services in B.C. The report, “Still Waiting: First-hand Experiences with Youth Mental Health Services in B.C.,” speaks to a fragmented and under-resourced system of services for youth ages 16 to their 19 birthday, a critical transition period to adulthood. Weighing input from more than 850 youth, parents, caregivers, and professionals who work in the field, it concludes that having one clear point of accountability for a system of services that spans government ministries and health authorities is key to supporting these youth.
Youth and their families identified long waits – some a year or longer – to see a mental health professional or to receive treatment as a major barrier to getting help. Key systemic deficiencies identified include a lack of acute emergency care for transition-age youth, a lack of community-based intensive intermediate supports, and a lack of mental health education, support and respite services for parents and caregivers. Other gaps include low mental health literacy among youth, their families and potential “first-responders,” major inconsistencies in services across the province, and poor planning for youth who are transitioning from youth mental health services into the adult mental health system.
The Representative recommends the creation of a Minister of State for Youth Mental Health to ensure that government provides adequate resources and that services are properly coordinated and available consistently across the province. Included in that recommendation is a call for a three-year operational plan, with immediate improvements to direct services in emergency, acute and community-based intensive intermediate care as well as a move to more youth-friendly engagement and service delivery models.
The Representative for Children and Youth supports children, youth and families who need help in dealing with the child-serving system, provides oversight to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and advocates for improvements to the child-serving system. The Representative for Children and Youth is an Independent Officer of the Legislature and does not report through a provincial ministry.
See “Still Waiting: First-hand Experiences with Youth Mental Health Services in B.C.” available on the RCYBC website.